IDER, Ala. (WRCB) -- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football program received an early Christmas gift Monday.
While most high school athletes will wait until February's National Signing Day or later to finalize their college futures, Ider High School offensive lineman Hunter Townson is signed, sealed and delivered to the Mocs.
"There's a couple places that really wanted me, but I just wasn't at home. At UTC, I was at home," said Townson, who has been a staple at Mocs' games and practices since verbally committing in May. "They really wanted me. You could tell by the way they talked to me and how they treated me.
"It's one big family up there. I love all the coaches and I already know most of the players because I committed early, and I got to hang out with them again during my official visit. I'm glad I committed early and I'm excited to get started."
Townson will graduate early this month, and has plans to enroll early at UTC in January. It's long been his goal to be on campus and eligible for winter workouts and spring practice, but it wasn't always a sure thing.
"It was a little suspenseful because they had never done it for any other student in Dekalb County before me," Townson said. "I have to thank Principal (Jeff) Watkins and Assistant Principal (Amy) Spurgeon for pushing for this to help it go through.
"I just knew this is what I wanted to do because college is going to be so much different from high school. Just to get accustomed to the college life and go through the workouts in winter and spring to get ready for the fall, I think it's really going to help my career down the line."
The 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman is rated as a two-star prospect by Rivals.com and received late interest from several Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
Townson acknowledged a heavy recruiting push from Middle Tennessee State, Arkansas State and Marshall in recent weeks, but he never wavered from his first choice.
Turning away Marshall was especially difficult because former UTC offensive line coach Geep Wade, who was the first to recruit Townson for the Mocs, was the primary recruiting contact for the Thundering Herd.
"Recruiting can get so overwhelming, but he handled all the pressure so well," said Ider High head coach Brent Tinker, who played for the Mocs from 1999-2002. "He knew what he wanted and knew where he wanted to be from the start, so it wasn't a hard decision for him.
"Those other schools came to recruit him, but he fell in love with UTC."
Townson was a two-way starter for the Hornets the past three years, and was a Class 2A all-state selection as a defensive end in 2011.
He'll be just the third early enrollee in head coach Russ Huesman's tenure at Chattanooga.
"We joked about how he's got a rude awakening coming when he gets to the college level, but we know he's going to be fine," Tinker said. "He's a very intelligent and focused young man, so he'll do well."
Our partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press also reported Monday that Marshall University center Channing Smith plans to transfer to UTC and join the Mocs in January
Two other offensive lineman, Brentwood's Logan Teichmann and Rhea County's Jacob Revis, are also verbally committed to UTC. The Mocs also have commitments from quarterbacks Tyler Roberson of Augusta Christian (Ga.) and Alejandro Bennifield of Lovejoy (Ga.) for their 2013 signing class.