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PCHS football players visit UGA

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    From left,Putnam County football players Malik Thornton, Jalen Kilgore, Gerald Kilgore, DJ Bland and former Baldwin High player and current Bulldog Javon Bullard all pose for a photo following a camp held in Athens on June 3. CONTRIBUTED

Several Putnam County football players made the trip to Athens last week to attend a camp at the University of Georgia.

Gerald Kilgore, Malik Thorton, DJ Bland and Jalen Kilgore all worked out with athletes from around the state on Thursday, June 3 at UGA’s indoor practice facility, which is dubbed the “House of Payne.”

“That trip happened because coach Shaun (Pope) sent out Jalen’s tape to Georgia, Clemson and a number of other schools,” James Kilgore Sr. said, who is the father of Gerald and Jalen. “They were impressed with the film, so they invited him to a camp. Plus, we got to take a couple of other guys.”

Kilgore Sr. added that it was the first FBS camp that each player got to attend.

“That was the first big camp I’ve been to,” Gerald said. “I’ve never been to Georgia before, either. So, their camp was great. And then, having my teammates with me, just meeting new coaches and everything meant so much. Also, getting new relationships started with Georgia, that was important.”

Gerald currently holds offers from a few schools, including Eastern Kentucky, Gardner-Webb and Reinhardt University. He helped lead the War Eagles to a 9-2 overall record and a GHSA Class AA playoff appearance last season. Heading into his senior year, Gerald said camps like the one in Athens are a great way to get exposure, especially from schools in the Power Five conferences.

“Gerald actually picked up his Gardner-Webb scholarship offer from a camp held at Mercer, which happened last week in Macon,” Kilgore Sr. said.

Gerald is a 6-foot, 198-pound dual-threat quarterback, who played his first two seasons of prep ball at Baldwin High before transferring to Putnam County.

“It was a great time getting to workout with guys from higher classifications in Georgia,” Gerald added. “I got to workout with UGA quarterback Brock Vandagriff and offensive coordinator Todd Monken last week, so that was a great experience.”

Jalen Kilgore said Georgia’s coaching staff was the highlight of his trip.

“They were all about energy,” he said. “The way the coaches were acting, they’ve got a good vibe and intensity towards the practices.”

Jalen is heading into his junior year at Putnam County. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound athlete will be attending a camp at Clemson later this month, so he is looking forward to another opportunity at impressing some big-name schools in the process.

DJ Bland said the atmosphere during the camp was what he remembered most.

“This was my first time going to a big college,” Bland stated. “I saw the atmosphere of a big-time school like UGA. So, my work ethic was the same and I think I did pretty good.”

DJ’s father, Darrell Bland Sr., said his son was excited about the competition he got to face.

“He saw the size of the athletes and he said he competed very well,” Bland Sr. said. “There were some other athletes who were there, with one of them being on his team at Hustle Inc., and he got to go against him in drills. It was just about that atmosphere of competition. Being at his size, he just enjoyed it.”

DJ is a 5-foot-7, 150-pound wide receiver, which is very undersized for a typical Division I athlete. However, his ability to shake defenders and get open in space is why he’s garnered some interest from schools like Brevard College, West Virginia State, Lagrange and Georgia Southern. The rising junior runs a 4.5 second 40-yard dash and can deadlift 315 pounds of weight.

“Malik (Thornton) is the other athlete who made the trip,” Kilgore Sr. said. “He’s a 6-foot wide receiver that plays on the outside for Putnam County. Malik has a great day in Athens as well.”

“Thornton currently has interest from Yale, which is a prestigious Ivy League school.”

Thornton and Jalen Kilgore got a chance to go matchup against Caleb Downs, who is the nation’s top safety prospect out of Mill Creek High School.

“The competition at the camp definitely made us as a group a whole lot better,” Jalen said. “Taking reps against guys who are competing for scholarships at the D1 level really causes us to play to our highest potential. I know Gerald, DJ, Malik and I showed those coaches our best while we got the chance to.”