The Ronald Reagan football program hosted its first signing day Wednesday afternoon, and linebacker Shawn Curtis made it a memorable one, as he had a last-minute change of heart and decided to attend Ole Miss this fall.
Curtis had originally announced his commitment to Pittsburgh on Jan. 21 after receiving offers from UCF, Duke, Illinois, Mississippi State and others.
But he decided to be a Rebel.
“I had faith in the coaches in Ole Miss when I met them and some of the players,” he said. “I’ll be playing the same position in either of the schools offered, so I decided to go to where there’s better competition and where I can show myself more.”
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His religious values were also a factor in choosing Ole Miss.
“My faith in Jesus Christ will be more alive there, because they share the same mind-set,” he said. “I believe that a more religious atmosphere will be better for me and help me improve even more as a man spiritually.”
As Curtis’ mother Marlena Blanco, recalled dropping off her 9-year-old son at his first football practice with the Doral Broncos, she never imagined it would take him this far.
“He wanted to play for fun. It just happened because of his hard work,” Blanco said. “It has been a difficult process in the vicious recruitment, but he’s pushed through.”
Said coach John Lopez: “Off and on the field he has a super-high character. He’s a player you can just trust and leads by example for the young ones.”
Kicker Steven Mejia, a Cambridge Academy student, will enter Princeton University as top 3 percent student, with a 6.0 GPA, and 2110 score on his SAT.
“Any Cambridge student will tell you that you have to put at least six hours of work daily to continue the program,” he said. “So it was difficult for me with football practice added to my schedule. But I’m really glad I did it.”
Running back TJ Callan, who started playing football as a sophomore, will be part of the first football program at the University of West Florida.
“When I first started, I wasn’t really thinking about the future. I just wanted to show up and work out,” Callan said. “But Coach Lopez has turned me into an athlete and now I can’t get enough of this sport.”
Full back Juan Saldarriaga is a second-generation athlete on the Bison football program who committed to Lopez’s alma mater, Valley City State (North Dakota).
“College ball has always been a dream, since I was 9 years old,” Saldarriaga said, “and now I got the opportunity to make that dream come true.”
Lopez started the program at Doral nine years ago. Since then, he has been consistently dedicated into developing hard-working individuals.
“We stuck with out Doral kids,” he said. “We knew they were hard working and we stayed the course, even if the first couple of years were bad. Every time we leave the weight room we say ‘hard work pays off.’”
The parents have also noticed his commitment to their children on and off the field.
“[Lopez] is kind, caring and gives great advice and he’s not afraid of giving a little nudge is they really need it,” said Callan’s mother, Renee Callan. “He is teaching them how to be responsible citizens and how to be great men. Not every coach does that.”