There was little drama on National Signing Day at St. Thomas Aquinas on Wednesday afternoon.
Not only had all 21 of the Aquinas football players already signed their scholarship but most had made it clear where they were headed for some time.
Even receiver Mike Harley’s decision to sign with Miami after turning down West Virginia didn’t come as much of a surprise.
Harley made it official in the morning, announcing his decision on television.
“Everything about the University of Miami felt like family and I had always wanted to go there, since I was a young kid,” said Harley, who had quite the crowd of family members all wearing Miami gear join him on stage for his ceremonial signing and picture taking.
“If God gives you an opportunity, you have to take it. The University of Miami is a great school and a big school, so I had to take that chance.”
A number of Aquinas players had already sent in their paperwork by then making Wednesday’s spectacle — the school had 63 students from various sports and their families packed into the gymnasium — mostly a formality.
There was little doubt where most of the seniors on Broward County’s first three-time state champions were headed.
Quarterback Jake Allen committed to Florida when he was a sophomore; running back Mike Epstein had been solid to Illinois all year. “A lot of teams came on at the end,” Epstein said.
Even wide receiver Trevon Grimes, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during a game in Las Vegas early on, was a long-time commitment to Ohio State.
“It’s about time. I’m ready to get up there and compete, do what I love to do and that’s play football,” said Allen, who plans on enrolling at UF in May.
“I committed the summer of my sophomore year, so it has been a while. I can’t wait to get up there. The time has finally come — although I have a few more months.”
Grimes, a lifelong Buckeyes fan, said he appreciated Ohio State sticking by him after his injury. Grimes added he had been running and his rehab is going well.
“It is an honor to be able to come out here in front of my family and friends,” said Grimes, dressed all in black save for a scarlet baseball cap with matching bow-tie.
“To just be able to fulfill another dream is really exciting. I’m ready to go to Ohio State and continue my journey.”
Udonis Haslem of the Heat made his way to the front of the gym as his son Kedonis signed scholarship papers with Toledo.
Before the ceremony, UD said Toledo was “the right situation” for his son. “His best football is ahead of him.”
Kedonis Haslem said he was glad to finish his senior year on top with a state championship. His father was given permission by the Heat to skip a game in Cleveland so he could attend Aquinas’ Class 7A title game in Orlando.
“The recruiting process kind of slowed down for me and then it picked back up,” Kedonis Haslem said. “I’m just glad I picked the best place for me.”
Football coach Roger Harriott beamed as his players walked to the stage wearing various baseball caps from programs nationwide as his mentor — longtime Aquinas coach George Smith — announced each one from a podium set up near the bleachers.
“It’s extremely gratifying and it’s by God’s grace that these extraordinary opportunities present themselves,” said Harriott, who had players sign with the likes of Iowa, Notre Dame and Michigan State to Tennessee, Akron and FAU.
“We enjoy playing the games and that gives us a great source of validation. But at the end of the day, the most gratifying part of the experience is helping these students further their education.”