Five seniors sat in front of their families, teammates and coaches, and after a few words from American Senior High football coach Anthony White, each one of them grabbed a pen and signed on the dotted line.
With that signature, they culminated their recruiting process. The phone calls, college visits, and constant questions about their future were finally put to rest.
Defensive end Jamal Smith (6-3, 240 pounds) had offers from the University of South Florida and University of Central Florida, but chose to leave the sunshine state and head to Ohio as he signed with Youngstown State.
“I love this school,” he said. “I knew this was the right fit for me. Working with two of the best coaches in the nation, there’s like a 100 percent chance I’m going to be great.
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“My next step for me is first academics — I want to do business. Then go follow my brother’s footsteps into the NFL Draft.”
Antione Webster was a former Florida Atlantic University commit, then headed north to visit University of Massachusetts in January after Kansas in early December.
He finally chose the cold and signed with UMass.
“Even though it was really cold I still loved it,” Webster said. “I’m definitely going to miss these guys. I’ve been playing with them since we were in little leagues.”
Webster’s brother and coach offered guidance in his decision making. “They told me to adjust to the people around me,” Webster said. “You have to picture yourself there for the next four years of your life.”
Webster also is excited to cheer on his older brother Kayvon Webster, as he will play cornerback for the Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Oh yes, I’ll be out there,” he said. “I missed the last Super Bowl, and this is the 50th so it’s going to be exciting. He should be getting a lot more playing time.
“He’s a big role model. We talk almost every day, he’s like a father almost. He’s very smart and dedicated.”
Unlike most signees, Roy Baker was set on his decision since October. The 6-0, 220-pound linebacker is headed to Buffalo University. Offensive lineman Henry Pierre will be attending Chowan University in the fall.
As for most parents, the recruiting process is difficult because not only is it a vital decision in their children’s lives but it also means they’re one step closer to leaving the nest.
“I’ve gone through this three times,” said L’Tosha Smith. Her oldest, D’Joun Smith, is a cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts, and her second son is Bethune-Cookman linebacker Jason Smith.
Now her youngest is leaving home.
“It’s exciting to see them fulfill their dreams, and be great. I’m going to miss his love. He’s very sweet, always giving me lots of kisses and hugs,” the elder Smith said. “I just keep telling them to keep pressing, to keep going. They don’t have it easy.”