Valdosta High defensive end Eric Brantley has nothing left to prove at the prep level. His work is done, and as most fans and coaches – both his own and those on opposing teams – would agree, he leaves behind quite a legacy as one of the most dominant defenders to ever take the field in Georgia high school football.
Opposing teams tried everything they could think of to neutralize the Wildcats standout, including double teams, and in some cases, even triple teams. It didn’t matter. Brantley was going to get his tackles and sacks.
In his final high school game, against Carrollton in the GHSA state playoffs, Brantley came out like a man possessed.
“I had 9 tackles in that first half,” Eric recalled. “I was definitely trying to help us win that game. I felt like I did a good job, but coming up short of a state championship definitely leaves me with some unfinished business. I was definitely trying to prove a point.”
It’s safe to say that most of those playing against him got the point. Loud and clear.
“I would describe his play as insane explosiveness,” said Richmond Hill head football coach Matt Lezotte, whose team faced Brantley and the Wildcats the last two seasons. “I have never seen a guy be able to attack as quick and with such precision as he is able to. He’s a special player whose ceiling is as high as he is willing to work for.”
It wasn’t just Brantley’s defensive prowess that impressed Lezotte.
“He lined up at Wildcat quarterback against us for a couple of snaps and showed how fluid he is in the open field as well,” Lezotte said. “He is a true student of the game, and you can see how he analyzes the field each and every play.”
Lee County head coach Dean Fabrizio, whose team played Valdosta High in 2021, called Brantley “one of the most disruptive defensive players we have had to go up against during my time here at Lee County.”
Brantley’s own coach, Shelton Felton, will no doubt miss Brantley as he moves on to play collegiately.
“Eric was one of the most dominant players I have ever had the honor of coaching, and he can play any position on the field,” Felton said. “We put him at tight end, running back, and we even put him at receiver some.”
Felton added that while some players are more ready to go than others, there was never any doubt about Eric’s preparedness.
“You knew every Friday night that Eric was going to bring it and change the game for us with his play,” he said. “Eric is just that kind of player.”
While Brantley wishes he could have led Valdosta High further in the postseason, it’s time to move on. He will graduate early in December, then head out to join his new teammates at Colorado, where a full scholarship and coach Deion Sanders await. Eric said he is looking forward to this next step in his life.
“I can’t wait to get out there and get on the field early,” he said.
Brantley said he has realistic expectations about the opportunities that await him.
“If I learn the playbook and do what I’m supposed to do, then I feel like I have a great shot at playing as a freshman,” he said.
He’ll have that chance to make his point. Again.