BASEBALL: JJ Lanham signs, makes history at Oakwood

Among those on hand to see JJ Lanham (seated, right) sign on to play baseball for the Bryan College Lions were parents Cheryl and Jason Lanham, along with his brother Chase, OCA head coach Kraig Givens, OCA Headmaster Daniel Ray and Bryan College assistant coach Jordan Day. (Photo by Scott Herpst)

As the son of a baseball coach, JJ Lanham has grown up around the sport and grown up wanting to play at the next level.

On Wednesday, the Oakwood Christian senior saw his wish come true.

Lanham, the son of Trion High School coach Jason Lanham, signed his letter of intent to play for Bryan College and, in the process, become the first OCA baseball player to sign to play in college.

"This day is incredible to me," said Lanham, who batted .471 for the Eagles a year ago and went 2-0 on the mound with 19 strikeouts. "All my life I've wanted to play baseball and have a shot at making it to the next level. My whole life I've been working towards getting some sort of scholarship, whether it was a full ride or not.

"Now that this day is finally happened, it just feels like a dream. I can't believe this is happening and I'm just really excited."

The 2017 Walker County Dream Teamer said he was sold on Bryan the minute he stepped foot on the Dayton, Tenn. campus.

"It was just the way that they introduced themselves," he explained. "The day I walked in, they made me feel like the most important person on campus. I like all the things that they stand for, not just in athletics, and it just really stood out to me. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I knew this is where I wanted to go."

"He's an unbelievable kid," said Lions assistant Jason Day, who graduated from both Trion High School and Bryan. "Bryan College is a Christian institution and first and foremost we're looking for unbelievable guys to be a part of our program. JJ brings a lot of different things to the table. He can play a lot of different positions, including in the infield in the outfield and he runs well too.

"I used to work for his dad, so to have the ability to play a number of different positions and to know the game at a high level and play it well, we're getting the total package with JJ."

Day said Lanham would likely start out at either second base or perhaps in left field.

"He's been a great leader for us and he's played a lot of different positions so he'll be useful no matter where they put him," OCA head coach Kraig Givens said. "Plus he's a coach's son, so he knows the game. His intelligence has always been one of the most important things that he's brought to us.

"But the biggest thing is that he is never going to feel like he's reached his potential. He's always going to feel like there's more out there so he's going to keep working. That's the biggest thing, I think, in any competitor, especially in baseball."

Givens said it was also special to see Lanham become the first Eagle to play at the next level.

"It's definitely exciting for me," the coach added. "From where I played college ball, I'm familiar with Bryan and their program. It's really cool to know someone who I've had a role in their life who's going on to play. It's pretty neat for sure and as much as he's meant to this (OCA) program, it's a big deal for all of us."

Lanham plans to major in Exercise Health and Science.