It is only the beginning, but it has already been a journey for those high school football players who signed on National Signing Day.
Wednesday marked the first time that senior football prospects could put their names on the dotted line for their college of choice. Throughout Clayton County, the players poised for pictures with their coaches, family members and friends.
Players made their choices with schools as far north as Minnesota and Buffalo, along the East coast in Vermont and out West in California. They have all seemed to find the “right fit” to continue their football career.
But more importantly, their education.
And it is all free because of their football skills.
Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior, a former standout at North Carolina State, reminded the players of what got them to this point.
“These guys not only put in the work on the athletic field, but they got it done in the classroom,” Manior told a packed crowd in the school’s gymnasium on Wednesday.
It was hard work in the weight room and football field during the hot summer months that put them in a position to earn a free college education. And it was the work done in the classroom and study hall that also made National Signing Day moments throughout the county possible.
Close to 30 players signed scholarships, and coaches anticipate many more will do the same in the coming weeks.
Legendary high school coach Buck Godfrey used to always tell his players on National Signing Day that this was their state championship. Aside from building a powerhouse team on the field, which included a 1995 state championship, Godfrey was known for landing his players scholarships.
One year, he had 26 seniors to receive some type of athletic tuition on all levels.
But Godfrey players didn’t just sign scholarships. They excelled in their college work too. Over 90 percent of his players who went to college graduated.
Ultimately, that is the most important thing.
This is only the beginning for these players, but it appears to be a good start. Now, the rest is up to them.
Not all will play at their respective college. Some will make all-conference, while others could possibly become All-Americans. A few will catch the attention of professional football personnel.
But all have the ability and opportunity to get that degree.
It’s only the beginning, but these signees have a chance to write a beautiful ending to a college career.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? @DerrickMahone_