By Doug Gorman
Jonesboro High School senior Patrick Saxby plans to play football in college.
The senior place kicker joined thousands of high school football players from around the nation by signing a letter of intent Wednesday morning in the ritual known as "National Signing Day."
However, long after Saxby has split the uprights with a game-winning field goal, his real committment begins.
At Wednesday's signing ceremony, Saxby accepted his congressional appointment to the United States Military Academy.
After graduating from West Point, Saxby will be required to serve a five-year commitment, but he already talks about making the military a career.
"I starting showing interest my junior year, and they sent me information on the school, Saxby said. "From there, you apply for nominations from your Congressman or Senator, and from there 12,000 people get nominations and only 1,200 people get in."
Saxby first had to meet all of West Point's strict requirements before the football program could begin its process of getting the Jonesboro senior on the team.
Now, Saxby can also look forward to joining the Black Knights on the gridiron.
West Point won out over its biggest rival Navy, who also hoped to have Saxby on its football team and at its school.
"The Naval Academy was kind of disappointed when he decided to go to Army," said Barbara Saxby, his mother.
The Army football team is coached by former Georgia Tech and NFL head coach Bobby Ross who came out of retirement last season to try and resurrect a football team which was suffering through the nation's longest losing streak.
After 19-straight losses, the Black Knights beat Cinncinnati and South Florida in back-to-back games to end the losing streak.
Saxby is too young to remember Ross when he partrolled the sidelines at Georgia Tech, which included guiding the Yellow Jackets to a national title in 1990, but he knows plenty about the coach's reputation.
"I am a Tech fan, so I know about his career there, and he also coached at The Citadel when my dad went there, so I am looking forward to playing for him," Saxby said. "It's kind of neat to have that connection."
Saxby was actually recruited by Kevin Ross, an assistant at Army, and the head coach's son.
"Kevin Ross is a Navy graduate, but he is now working for his father. He was really responsible for recruiting Patrick. Patrick went up and had a really nice visit," said Ski Saxby, Patrick's father.
The chance to play college football is something that Saxby has been working toward for many years.
In addition to kicking and punting for the Cardinals, Saxby has been playing soccer at the high school and club levels for years. He also wrestled and played basketball for a couple of seasons.
Looking back on his career, Saxby said he's fondest memory was booting the game-winning 28-yard field goal his senior year to beat South Atlanta on homecoming.
Saxby comes from an athletic family. Older sister Shannon teaches math and coaches soccer in the Mobile area, where she was recently named the Coach of the Year. Brother Ryan Saxby is a place kicker at Alabama, and younger brother Kevin plays football and soccer also at Jonesboro.
Saxby is one of three players who signed scholarships from Jonesboro. Rodger Morris is going to Ball State, and Chris Ekpo will attend Colgate.
"For Patrick to make this type of committment in this day and age is really special," said Jonesboro head coach Larry Mortonson. "All three of our athletes who signed today are special young men. This is the example of what hard work can do."