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TIME TO SIGN

Athletes can start signing scholarships today

Former Mundy's Mill athletes Rodney Smith and Jonathan Celestin will become the first from their school to sign with a Big Ten Conference school when they sign with Minnesota. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Former Mundy's Mill athletes Rodney Smith and Jonathan Celestin will become the first from their school to sign with a Big Ten Conference school when they sign with Minnesota. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

The scene will be played out across the state and nation today.

With cameras flashing, area athletes will get their first opportunities today to sign their college scholarships.

After months of the recruiting process with endless calls from college coaches and recruiting analysts, it will all come to an end today on National Signing Day, once they put their names on the dotted line.

“I can’t wait,” former Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith said. “It will be like a dream coming true when I finally sign those papers. I’ve waited a long time for this day. I am one step closer to my goal of playing college football.”

It is expected to be a historic day at Mundy’s Mill with Smith and teammate Jonathan Celestin signing with Minnesota. They are the first players from the school to sign with a Big Ten Conference program. This past season, the two helped lead the team to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals, the furthest that a Mundy’s Mill team has gone in the playoffs.

Smith rushed for 2,201 yards and 26 touchdowns while Celestin was one of the top defensive players in the area.

While all the players are expected to relish the moment, there will also be a sense of relief from the recruiting process.

“Yep, I’ll be glad when it’s all over,” Lovejoy defensive end Randy Anyanwu said. “It has been a long process. It started fun, but it starts to wear on you.”

Smith agreed.

“In the beginning, the attention was great,” said Smith, who chose Minnesota over East Carolina and Southern Mississippi. “It does start to get to you, but my coach told me to enjoy it. It is the only time in your life that grown men chase after you because of your athletic talents. It can wear on you if it continues.”

Anyanwu committed to Western Kentucky in early December, but after the school had a coaching change, he re-opened his recruiting process. Two weeks ago, he committed to Buffalo after taking an official visit.

“I’m just ready to get started,” Anyanwu said.

The month of January is always hectic as new coaching hires are trying to make that last push for recruits.

“It’s real frantic, especially with all the coaching changes out there — head coaches and assistants,” said recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports. “A lot of kids’ heads are spinning right now.”

As typical, it should be a big signing day at Lovejoy with several Div. I recruits. Linebacker DeMarquis Gates is the biggest attraction as he will sign with Ole Miss. He has been committed to the SEC school since last February.

Gates missed the entire season in 2013 as he recovered from knee surgery, but Ole Miss has kept recruiting him.

“They stayed loyal to me,” Gates said.