CRESTVIEW – The Bulldog pride was heavy for Cade Kootsouradis.
Three Crestview jerseys – black, white and red – hung in the foreground of the 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman, who on Wednesday was seated on the auditorium stage at a 16-foot table draped in a Crestview red tablecloth and covered with Bulldog memorabilia.
His parents were on both sides, behind them an 8-foot-tall Red and white Crestview backdrop.
He’d earned the massive display, the mountain of a man contributing to four playoff trips and three district titles – a record of any Crestview class – and also a Final Four trip his junior season.
He’d earned this moment, the senior embracing the early signing period by etching his future with Georgia Tech and then promptly putting on one of the three Yellow Jackets hats displayed in front him.
Yep, this homegrown Crestview boy is headed for the big city lights of Atlanta and Atlantic Coast Conference football.
"Its been an emotional ride with the ups and dows of recruiting and to finally find my place with Georgia Tech, it’s been a tremendous experience," Kootsouradis said. "I’m just so proud to be here on stage surrounded with the people I love most."
None more so than mom, Arleen, and dad, Nick, who also have a son playing football for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.
"We couldn’t be more proud right now," Nick said. "It just feels surreal. Very proud of Cade – both athletically and academically."
Echoed Arleen: "We’re really excited for him. Very, very proud."
Kootsouradis made the switch to center before the season, paving the way for Taylor Scarbrough’s 1,460 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. During the Final Four run as a junior he operated on the blind side and helped pave the way for one of the state’s most prolific offenses – 48 points a night and 392 yards per game.
"We made history," Kootsouradis said. "Pretty sure you can check the record books and there’s never been a Crestview class to make the playoffs four straight years. We used to be looked down upon but we remade the Crestview football program, we remade the Crestview culture to where it is now."
Included in that four-year stretch for Kootsouradis was a 4-1 record against Niceville en route to those three district crowns.
"Beating Niceville never fails to be the best day ever," he laughed. "They’re a great rival and I loved playing them every year, sometimes twice a year."
As for his future, Kootsouradis doesn’t see moving to Atlanta as joining a 3-9 program. Quite the opposite.
He sees a program on the rise under first-year head coach Geoff Collins – as represented by the Yellow Jackets’ spot in the Top 25 for the early signing period.
"I really think we’re on the up and coming," Kootsouradis said. "This season wasn’t their best, but it was a remaster year. It needed to happen. Coach Collins is the real deal. He knows what he’s doing and he’s going to lead Georgia Tech to the top."
As for his place in leading the Yellow Jackets back to prominence?
"They switched up their offense from option to spread, so they need more lineman and the right lineman in place," Kootsouradis said. "That’s where I’m hoping to contribute. It’s a great signing class this year and I’m proud to be a part of that group."