Most of Miami-Dade County’s best football prospects either made up their minds early or stuck to their original commitments on National Signing Day.
And even a few that left room for suspense until Wednesday morning’s ceremonies such as Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris and Champagnat Catholic defensive tackle Travonte Valentine chose destinations many suspected they would choose in recent days and weeks.
Harris, the leader of Booker T. Washington’s national championship team this season, revealed his decision, pulling out a University of Florida cap while standing between his mother and father at the podium on stage at his school’s auditorium.
Harris, who had been committed until recently to defending national champion Florida State, said he envisioned himself playing at Florida since he took his official visit to the school.
“When I got in the film room with [UF assistant coach Kurt] Roper, I saw that they run the same offense we do [at Booker T.],” Harris said. “We have to go up there this summer and work hard and overcome everything that happened last year. You only get one of these days in a lifetime. I feel blessed.”
Harris was one of 16 signees for Booker T., which was voted the consensus high school national champion following a perfect 14-0 state championship season.
Defensive ends Chad Thomas and Demetrius Jackson stuck to their commitments and signed with the University of Miami.
Jackson, also a star basketball player at Booker T., was moved to tears minutes after he signed with the Hurricanes.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Jackson said. “I’m still speechless. I wish my grandma could have been here to see this. Growing up here in Overtown, I never would have thought you’d be at this point and going to UM. It shows you God’s work.”
Thomas put on a bit of a show, pulling a UM jacket out of a bag and later flashing “The U” gesture with his hands as the student body cheered on. But Thomas said he didn’t mean to be theatrical.
“I actually didn’t try to make [the announcement] dramatic,” Thomas said. “My jacket was too big to get out of the bag, and I didn’t have a hat.
“I stuck with UM and found out that was the best fit for me throughout the whole process. I’ve been in Miami my whole life, but Coral Gables is a different place. Even if football fails, I still have my academics, and I can pursue my music career at a great school. Success isn’t promised to everybody, so I thought about that a lot.”
Among Booker T.’s other standouts were offensive lineman Jordan Ingraham, who signed with FIU, wide receiver Lamar Parker signing with West Virginia, cornerback Nigel Bethel signing with Texas Tech and defensive back James Darby, who has already enrolled at Bethune-Cookman.
Valentine gave a few hints even before he sat down to sign his letter of intent. His shoes were purple with a light gold color. His mother, Darlene Samuel, sat beside him wearing purple and white.
So it wasn’t a huge shock when Valentine pulled out an LSU cap and chose the Tigers as his college.
For the past few weeks following his decommitment from the University of Miami, the popular belief was Valentine would choose LSU.
“It took me a long time, and I had to think about my decision,” Valentine said. “I woke [Wednesday], and it took me an hour to get to school. I thought about it hard, and I made my decision to stick to LSU.”
Valentine added: “Family is all I need. It’s like family at LSU. I thought about mine [Wednesday morning] because they’re all here. But I thought if I went to LSU I’d have a better opportunity to win a national championship, win my conference and get a degree.”
In addition to Valentine, Champagnat had four Football Bowl Subdivision school signees. Athlete Frank Labady signed with Cincinnati, safety Michael Johnson signed with Louisville and wide receiver Jason Williams signed with Akron. Receiver David Alexis signed with Dakota College.
Homestead wide receiver Ermon Lane stuck to his recent commitment to FSU and signed with the Seminoles.
At South Dade, wide receiver C.J. Worton chose the Gators. Worton was among six football signees for the first-time state champion Bucs.
Most of Central’s top recruits such as Dalvin Cook (FSU), Joseph Yearby (UM) and Trevor Darling (UM) enrolled last month at their schools. But the Rockets had defensive end Fred Jones sign with FSU and offensive lineman Michael Smith sign with South Florida on Wednesday to complete a group of 12 overall signees.
Northwestern’s Jojo Robinson signed with Arkansas, highlighting a talented group for the Bulls that included 13 football signees.