Northwestern defensive lineman Rod Byers had a change of heart.
Dreams do come true and Byers, who verbally committed to Oregon last month, decided Wednesday morning to back away from the Ducks and sign with the Clemson Tigers.
Byers, a deacon in his church, said he's been torn for a week whether to honor his commitment to Oregon or to give Clemson another look. With a signing day appearance scheduled for noon Wednesday at Northwestern, Byers said he prayed Tuesday night, took a walk and asked for a sign.
It came in a dream, a dream that he was playing football for Clemson.
"He (God) came and showed me where I should be" Byers said of the dream. "It was nothing that Oregon did or didn't do. ... I'm just going out on faith and following my heart.
"I knew Clemson was the place I needed to be after the dream, but I didn't make my decision until this morning (Wednesday). I told the coaches at Oregon a week ago that I was going to give it some more thought. I called and told them this morning that I had changed my mind. They are good people, nothing against them, and they understood."
Byers, 6-feet-5, 270 pounds, helped lead Northwestern to its first undefeated season last year. The Trojans finished 15-0 and beat Greenwood 42-10 in the Class AAAA Division II state championship game at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
Byers was one of four local football players signing with Division I schools. Northwestern teammate Gerald Dixon Jr., a defensive tackle, signed with South Carolina, Trojans quarterback Justin Worley, who is enrolled at Tennessee, signed Wednesday with the Volunteers. South Pointe's Gerald G. Dixon, a defensive end and Dixon Jr.'s half brother, also signed with the Gamecocks.
Northwestern had intended to have Worley live on a screen set up on the stage of the school's auditorium. But there was an Internet problem, so Worley was called and put on a speaker.
A man of few words and a powerful arm, Worley said: "I'm proud to be a Vol.''
The Dixons played together in this year Shrine Bowl for the first time since they were teammates on a state championship team when they were 12. Their father, Gerald Dixon Sr., was a standout linebacker at South Carolina, but his sons grew up pulling for Tennessee.
"It was because Rock Hill High's Jonathan Hefney played there and we liked their orange uniforms,'' Gerald G. Dixon said. "I had 16 firm offers. It came down to South Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest and Auburn. But we wanted to play together and South Carolina gave us that opportunity.''
Gerald Jr. had two offers, South Carolina and Maryland.
"For me to be a big guy, people say I'm pretty fast,'' he said. "I took aninterception to the house and all my teammates were talking about how I can move. This is a great day for me and my family. I get to play at South Carolina with my brother and where our dad played. He was always taking us to games.''
Signings took place all over York County. The first was Rock Hill Bearcats defensive lineman Johnny Cline, who signed with Newberry.
Kline was one of five local players signing with the Wolves. The others were Northwestern offensive lineman Stephen Nance, South Pointe linebacker Albert Neely, Clover linebacker Jerry Sanders, and Lancaster defensive lineman Daniel Foster.
"Newberry is really the only school that looked at me,'' Kline said. "It's close to home, and I like a small school. It fits me well for football and academics.''
One of the area's most explosive players, Clover quarterback Aaron Miller, signed with The Citadel and said he's ready for the rigors of military life.
"I liked the atmosphere," Miller said. "I liked the Charleston area. You have to be able to think under pressure to play quarterback.''
Clover's offensive lineman Griffin Marsh signed with North Greenville, as did York offensive lineman Bryson Long and Lancaster offensive lineman Dustin Belk.
"North Greenville will be a big step up from York," Long said. "When coach (Jamey) Chadwell came looking for a lineman, it was a very easy decision to go play for him."
Indian Land running back Breyon Williams was a late signee. He agreed on a financial package with Presbyterian on Wednesday.
Three area players have preferred walk-ons in hand, meaning they are invited to try out for their team and earn a scholarship. Northwestern defensive end Collins Mauldin and wide receiver Robert Joseph have offers from Clemson. South Pointe kicker Landon Ard has an offer from South Carolina.
Barry Byers 329-4099 Karl Lyles 329-4032