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Ahlers officially signs with ECU

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D.H. Conley quarterback Holton Ahlers signs his Letter of Intent to play at ECU at Tie Breakers Sports Bar on Dec. 20, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Though he spoke plenty of times throughout his recruitment process of savoring and appreciating the ride, Holton Ahlers didn't waste any time ending that ride Wednesday morning.

The former D.H. Conley quarterback was the first player of East Carolina's 2018 football recruiting class to sign and submit his paperwork, officially ending his recruitment and making good on a verbal commitment to the Pirates he made nearly a year ago.

Ahlers celebrated the occasion with family and friends at a gathering Wednesday afternoon at Tie Breakers Sports Bar. Though he went through the ceremonial signing there, his official letter was faxed to ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery just seconds after the signing period opened at 7 a.m.

"It's a lot of stress away," said Ahlers, who was named MVP of the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas last weekend. "It's been a dream of mine forever, and just to have it come true, not many people have dreams come true in their lives like this one. This was a special opportunity to make one of mine come true."

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound QB committed to ECU in January, choosing the Pirates over in-state foe N.C. State among others. That didn't stop colleges from calling, as multiple offers came in afterward, but the pressure got turned up as the early signing period closed in.

Tuesday brought an offer from Florida, as well as a phone call from Alabama head coach Nick Saban. The last-second press led to one final night of limited rest before he inked his letter, but none of it caused Ahlers to waver in his decision.

"There were a couple of coaches still calling me from other schools, so I didn't sleep much," he said, laughing. "I was still hearing from ECU, too, so I'm sure they were a little bit worried, but I was a Pirate and I was a Pirate 18 years ago, so I'm happy."

In Ahlers, the Pirates are getting one of the most prolific passers the state of North Carolina has ever seen. He threw 61 touchdown passes as a senior, closing his career with 145 to end with the third-most in NCHSAA history. His 11,198 passing yards are also third in state history.

He also rushed for 3,586 yards and 56 TDs in a high school career that yielded three consecutive Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference championships for the Vikings.

With signing day out of the way, Ahlers' full attention now turns to joining a Pirates program headed into its third season under Montgomery. He graduated early from D.H. Conley and will be moving in at ECU on Jan. 4

The QB headlined a 19-player class that signed Wednesday. One of those players, offensive lineman and Leesville Road product Peyton Winstead, was in attendance at Tie Breakers. Ahlers said the pair will be roommates.

How much ECU fans will see of Ahlers as a freshman remains to be seen, but he's already putting in the work. Following his signing and faxing of his letter this morning, he said he went and worked out for two hours, exactly the kind of work-ethic that DHC coach Nate Conner said will put him in position to be successful in college.

"I know what he does behind the scenes that sets him apart from so many guys and he's going to get to prove to a lot of other people in the country now what he's capable of doing because of his work ethic, because of the discipline he has for the game of football," Conner said. "He's going to have a lot of challenges ... but his commitment to the game and his discipline lets me know that he's going to do really well."

Ahlers himself acknowledged the challenges and the adjustment that lies ahead, but said he's ready to attack it with the same ferocity that helped him be so successful at Conley.

"I don't know what to expect, but I'm going to go in there and be myself," he said. "I'm going to go in and be the leader that I know I am and work my tail off. I'll be the hardest worker in there and let the rest take care of itself."

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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