Former Newberry High standout Yafari “Shai” Werts was named the Georgia Southern starting quarterback Monday.
Werts gets the nod for the Eagles in their opener against Auburn on Sept. 2. He is the first GSU freshman to start at quarterback since Tracy Ham in 1983.
Werts beat out junior college transfer Kado Brown and junior LaBaron Anthony to win the job.
“All the work I’ve been putting in, it’s finally paid off,” Werts told reporters Monday after practice. “I called my mom and she just went crazy so I'm glad that she's proud of me and I can’t wait to tell the rest of my family.”
Werts dressed for several games last season but redshirted. He was recruited by Georgia Southern, South Carolina North Carolina and Appalachian State coming out of high school.
Some of the schools wanted Werts to play receiver, which he did during the Shrine Bowl but it was quarterback where he excelled in high school and wanted to play in college.
Werts helped Newberry to back-to-back appearances in the Class 2A Division I championship game. He finished his high school career with 6,026 yards and 73 touchdowns.
“I think Shai certainly came in and took the majority amount of snaps with the ones both in spring practice and in camp and I thought he did a great job," Georgia Southern coach Tyson Summers said. “I think that you see him have a very clear understanding of what we want do on offense. I think you see him have a very clear understanding of what he's got to work on to get better at and I think that he's done a tremendous job from a leadership standpoint on the field and in the classroom and in the meeting room. He's certainly one of the key leaders for our entire football team, not just in the quarterback room and not just the offense, so I’m very proud of Shai.”