Congratulations to the talented signees

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, February 7, 2013

All aboard for National Signing Day!

Devoted fans, family, coaches and players gathered together Wednesday to celebrate football scholarship signings across the nation. Players smiled brightly, affixed their signatures on the proper papers, flexed their muscles, posed for pictures and generally enjoyed the moment.

Congratulations are in order. We wish all of them the best, no matter what institution of higher learning they chose to attend.

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What lies ahead for these coveted high school stars is a whole new ball game. Football will become more like a job this summer, starting with those grueling volunteer workouts on their respective college campuses.

Of course, college summer school is important. Those extra hours of class work put the athletes ahead of the incoming freshman class. Those extra hours of running sprints, stadium steps and gaining strength and quickness in the weight room becomes a matter of survival.

Here in Mississippi, where the heat index hovers in the 110-degree range through July and August, football players discover exactly how much they love the game. High school studs who could coast through practice are suddenly facing players who are bigger, stronger, quicker, meaner and faster than they are. Heck, a lot of them are not even on the starting team.

So, most importantly, enjoy the moment and the accolades before the real work begins.

Scholarships are a financial bonus to athletes and their families. The value of a 4-year scholarship to a major university can equal or surpass $200,000. So don’t take that college degree for granted.

In Lincoln County, defensive end JaBoree Poole of Brookhaven and running back/defensive back Brandon Wells of Bogue Chitto drew the most attention. Poole signed with Southern Miss and Wells signed with Mississippi State.

Mississippi community/junior colleges covered the area like a blanket. Two years ago, each MACJC member ruled a district of several counties, claiming the best athletes and putting them on a restricted list. That all ended in 2011 when the MACJC presidents opened recruiting statewide.

Coaches cussed that wide-open recruiting situation but many of the players loved it. They enjoyed the extra attention. Schools with the largest tax bases could afford more assistant coaches. That meant more coaches could be riding the rural roads, recruiting prospects across the Magnolia State, while the rest of the staff coached the team.

At BHS, running back Justin Blue signed with Southwest Mississippi Community College. Blue, an honor roll student, is reuniting with former BHS head coach Tucker Peavey who was named Boss Bear in December. Blue wants to major in criminal justice and eventually transfer to Southern Miss, with dreams of playing for the Golden Eagles and one day working for the FBI.

BHS quarterback Zach Smith is scheduled to sign with Co-Lin on Friday. Offensive lineman B.J. Robinson plans to sign with Pearl River.

At Bogue Chitto, wide receiver/defensive back Germie Martin plans a future with the Co-Lin Wolfpack. Teammate and defensive end James Blackwell is headed for Hinds. They joined Wells for an early morning celebration in BC’s R.L. “Bob” Calhoun Gymnasium.

Meanwhile, at Wesson, lineman Cullen Greer and slot back/wide receiver Koy McFarland signed with Co-Lin Wednesday afternoon. Both are honor roll students who love the game of football. They both play basketball and baseball for the Cobras, too.

At Lawrence County, quarterback Nicholas “Nico” McDonald, lineman J.D. Magruder and running back Glenn Russell Jr., signed Wednesday with Southwest. McDonald runs the option well and can play in the defensive secondary.

At Hazlehurst, home of the 2012 Class 3A state champions, five players are going the JUCO route. All-state linebacker Demetrius Cain signed with East Mississippi and so did linebacker Aaron Larry. Quarterback Kenny Coleman and offensive lineman elected to sign with Jones County. Safety/wide receiver Xavion Thedford is headed for Pearl River.

Franklin County players are anxiously awaiting a call. Coach Rickey O’Quinn said he is beating the drum for his senior standouts even though he got relieved of his coaching duties in November. That’s known as devotion to the Bulldogs.

Longtime Co-Lin women’s basketball coach Gwyn Young will be honored tonight between games in Mullen Gymnasium. Young, the winningest active women’s coach in the nation, achieved his 800th career victory in December. In his 33 years of coaching Co-Lin, Young has amassed a record of 813 wins and 235 losses. His accomplishments are many.

Over the years, the majority of Young’s players came from southwest Mississippi.

Contact sports editor Tom Goetz by Email: