They were part of a football team that brought Northpoint Christian School within one victory of a Tennessee state high school championship and an undefeated season, followed by two years together as part of a successful Itawamba Community College football team.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Christian Saulsberry and Tyree Bryant together announced they were going in different directions for the final two years of their college football careers.

Taking advantage of the first day of the early signing period for junior college transfers, Saulsberry signed a national letter of intent to play at the University of West Alabama next fall, while Bryant signed to play football next season at the University of Tennessee-Martin.

The former Trojan football pair were important parts of the Northpoint team that reached the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) 2015 Division II-A championship game, rolling through 13 regular season and playoff opponents before falling in the final game to St. George's (Collierville, Tenn.) 50-20, for their only loss of the season.

This past fall, Bryant and Saulsberry factored in an Itwamba Indians' squad that finished the year 6-3 and just missed the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior College (MACJC) post-season playoffs, despite winning five straight games and earning a number 10 ranking in the final National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) football rankings.

An all-purpose player primarily used as a receiver, Saulsberry caught 41 passes for 510 yards and two touchdowns for the Indians this year and said he felt a family atmosphere and love for the program when he visited West Alabama.

Saulsberry looks forward to being in the environment, but he chose to wait until just before actually signing to announce where he was planning to go.

"I really sat down in the last few hours and thought about it," Saulsberry said. "The West Alabama coaches see me as an athlete but I'll probably be playing more as a slotback. They'll move me around to running back and I'll be doing some special teams."

Playing on the defensive side, Bryant made 20 solo tackles and earned 11 assists from his defensive end position this year at Itawamba. He was also credited with 4.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and blocked a kick.

He said he'll be playing a hybrid position of defensive end and linebacker for UT-Martin.

"I was really interested in their defensive scheme," Bryant said about the Skyhawks. "They had a really good defensive year this year and they really impressed me."

"Every time he was on the field, he was the best defensive player that played for us and was probably on the field, when he finally committed his mind, soul and heart all into becoming a great football player," current Northpoint coach Chris Cascio said about Bryant's time at Northpoint. "He's earned this spot."

Cascio was Bryant's defensive coordinator when the future Skyhawk played for the Trojans.

West Alabama, based in Livingston, Ala., is an NCAA Division II school that plays in the Gulf South Conference. The Tigers last season finished with a 10-3 record under head coach Jason Simpson, including a first-round playoff victory over Delta State.

UT-Martin is a NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team and are members of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). The Skyhawks are coached by Jason Simpson and last season finished with a 6-5 record, which included a 45-23 loss at Ole Miss.

MORE INK: One other DeSoto County football player reported to have signed during the early signing period was former DeSoto Central Jaguar Peyton McMahon. The Northeast Mississippi Community College linebacker signed with Mississippi College.

The early signing period ended Friday, except for mid-year junior college transfers, who can continue to commit until Jan. 15. The regular signing period for players heading to college will begin on Feb. 7.

Bob Bakken is Sports Editor and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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