With the bitter disappointment of a state semifinal loss to Cocoa – denying them a chance at an unprecedented fifth consecutive state championship – well in the rear view mirror, it was another euphoric, feel-good day for the football community at Booker T. Washington on Wednesday morning.
That’s because it was National Signing Day and close to a dozen Tornado athletes were lined up on stage in the school’s auditorium with their parents and family behind them to make things official and announce where they will be taking their football talents.
And it turned out to be an awfully good day for new FIU and former Miami head coach Butch Davis as a total of four BTW players put on their Panthers caps and signed on the dotted line.
Guard Willa Pierre (6-3, 288), a three-star recruit, was the first to sign with FIU and was quickly followed by three two-stars players — athlete DeAndre Williams and a pair of cornerbacks, the Dames brothers, Richard and Rishard.
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All four had already been heavily recruited by FIU under the Ron Turner regime and Rishard made no bones about it that Davis retaining former Booker T. player and coach Tim Harris Jr. on his coaching staff — the lone holdover from Turner’s staff — was huge.
“Ron Turner was the first one that offered us,” said Rishard Dames. “Then they made the coaching change and we hesitated but when coach Davis decided to keep Tim Harris Jr. on the staff, that was huge for us because to be honest we might’ve started looking at other options at that point.”
“He’s a great coach,” said Pierre of Davis. “When you meet with him, you really learn to believe in what he’s selling and now we all want to go together and help put FIU on to the big-time map.”
Ultimately, all BTW players stuck to their original commitments but the only drama on Wednesday morning surrounded Tornado defensive end Guy Thomas.
Thomas committed to Nebraska last August and never really wavered.
That was until the last few weeks when reports surfaced that Pittsburgh was making a big-time push for his services and he was having second thoughts.
But Thomas pulled out a red hat with an “N” on it as the crowd cheered. And while Thomas admitted that he had not made a decision until sitting down with his parents on Tuesday night, he said Pitt was not the school he almost jumped off to but Bobby Petrino and Louisville.
“I didn’t make a decision until last night when I sat down with my parents and really did some soul searching,” said Thomas (6-3, 202)
“A few days ago, Louisville really started blowing my phone and pushing hard but in the end, I just felt most comfortable about Nebraska because I’m kind of a laid-back kind of guy and that school is kind of a laid back family atmosphere that really seemed to fit my personality. Also the academic support is amazing and that had a lot to do with the decision as well.”
One other BTW signee stayed local when linebacker Isaac Readon signed up to go play for new FAU coach Lane Kiffin. \
Other signees included wide receiver Sharod Johnson (Syracuse), cornerback Dedrick Mackey (Purdue), running back Craig Nelson (Indiana), Derrick Geter and offensive tackle Teaki Fuller (Bethune Cookman).
Four-star offensive tacke Kadeem Telfort, all 6-7, 300 pounds of him, was not there because he finished his academic commitments and is already enrolled at the University of Florida.
“It’s a proud day to watch these kids moving on to the next chapter of their lives and the opportunity that athletics has provided for them,” said BTW coach Tim “Ice” Harris Sr.
“It’s a proud day for not just the coaches, but everyone from administrators to faculty to support staff here at Booker T. Washington High School.”