National Signing Day is a day of wonder, excitement and dreams come true for gridiron stars, coaches and fans alike. Wednesday was no different in Marion County … well, actually it was.
As a college football fan, I’ve always followed the quasi holiday with just as much as excitement as the NFL Draft. It’s a fresh start with new players and new possibilities. You get to map out the next two or four years of your favorite program’s future and relish in the excitement of big wins in the fall.
For the athletes who sign letters of intent, it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work over several years and the end of what is usually a whirlwind of recruitment calls, texts and visits. These teenagers get pulled in a million different directions, especially the ones who end up with more than just a few offers, with coaches promising them all sorts of things. When they finally put pen to paper, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Now I won’t claim to know if it’s a record or not, but 10 players in Marion County signed Wednesday, which if it isn’t a record for the county it’s very close. The most I’ve witnessed since I’ve been here was six, and Columbia High School beat that number alone with seven players signing. Seven!
And guess what? The Wildcats probably aren’t done. Head coach Chip Bilderback said Wednesday that it’s likely they will have one or two more student athletes play in college before it is all said and done.
There’s a couple of themes I seem to notice every time a player signs here in Marion County. First and foremost, they are usually extremely hard workers who go the extra mile. It isn’t just about giving it their all at practice or in games.
It’s about putting in the unseen work in the weight room, staying after practice to continue working and taking their free time to study film. There’s a level of commitment required to reach the next level. Sure, there are some athletes who can get by on just God-given ability to reach college, but talent alone won’t get it done once they’re there.
Another thing that is usually prevalent is most of the players who signs scholarships grew up playing more than one sport. A lot of them end up specializing late in their high school careers, but through their youth and early high school years they’re not just focused on one sport. Cross training allows the body to become more versatile, targeting different muscle groups and developing other skills that translate across multiple sports.
If you think your son or daughter has what it takes to reach the collegiate level in one sport, don’t let them specialize just to hone in on their game.
A lot of those kids end up being burnt out on the sport or reach their peak far too early.
The final aspect is academics.
There are certain requirements student athletes much reach to qualify for college, and there are far too many cautionary tales of talented players being left out because of their grades. Student comes first in student athletes for a reason.
Hats off to the players who signed who are listed below.
Columbia: Kentrel Bullock, RB — Ole Miss; Jamison Kelly, FS — Louisiana Tech; Jordan Aaron, DT — Hinds Community College; Justin Lee, DE — Hinds; Ethan Bond, C — East Central Community College; Sadarion Magee, CB — East Central; Teshonne Franklin, SS — Pearl River Community College
West Marion: Jordyn Mahaffey, DE — Jones College; Josh Ham, LS — East Mississippi Community College
East Marion: Jaheim Burkett, DL — Belhaven
Joshua Campbell is sports editor of The Columbian-Progress. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 736-2611.