It’s a new beginning for a pair of 2020 Aquinas graduates.
Mickey Burke and Neal Sellers signed letters of intent to shoot for Georgia Southern University’s upstart clay target program Saturday. The signing took place at Pinetucky Gun Club, where Burke and Sellers competed with the Pinetucky Pullits.
“What’s going through my mind is just how blessed I am,” Sellers said after the ceremony. “I’ve had a family and school that’s pushed me to do better, and I’m just so excited.”
While still a club program, new head coach Marty Fischer explained that this is a new beginning in the sense of putting resources together to compete at the highest level, rather than being just a casual shotgun team. Burke and Sellers being members of the first recruiting class is evidence of that.
“The biggest thing that made it work was that the shotgun sports have gotten so big nationwide,” Fischer said. “So it was just natural, given all the great little high school teams and all-star teams that shoot clays in the state. Alabama has a team, Clemson has a team, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida State, Florida. Georgia Southern didn’t have one, yet we have access to some of the finest young shooters in the entire country.”
Fischer describes the team as a “glorified club on steroids.” The team will not be eligible for state funding through the athletic department. The program will be self-funded through donations and has already received a grant from the National Rifle Association. In an era with many non-revenue sports getting cut because of the global health crisis, their status as a club sport saves the team from those university budgetary concerns.
Both Sellers and Burke said Statesboro being so close to home weighed heavily on their decisions. Burke even turned away opportunities from another school when Fischer came calling. The challenge of helping build a new program from the ground up was one the two couldn’t pass up.
“It feels really special, to be honest. It’s almost like we’re going down in history because when people look back, we’re the team that started it all,” Sellers said.
Fischer has high expectations for the program in its early years.
“We’ve got an opportunity to take this to a level that a lot of people have no idea we can do,” he said. “I’ve told everybody at Southern, and I mean this sincerely, ‘The next national champion from Georgia Southern University may very well come from this shotgun program.’ The kids we’re bringing on are really that good, and we’re excited to have them.”