Sitting before a large crowd of friends and family, five Austin High players soaked in the emotions of the day.
Smiles were plentiful. Tears were shed.
And photographs? Lots were taken.
All part of the phenomenon that has become college football’s National Signing Day.
Five Austin football players made their college plans official Wednesday morning when the NCAA’s signing period began. Later that day, the group celebrated the moment with a gymnasium crowded with family, friends, coaches and teammates.
In Lawrence, Limestone and Morgan counties, 16 high school football players made their college plans official by signing National Letters of Intent or agreeing to play at a Division III program, which do not offer athletic scholarships.
At Austin, three players made plans to play for Division I programs. Lamont Crittendon and Greg Willard signed NLIs with Murray State (Ky.), while star running back Josh Walker accepted a spot with Navy’s football program — the service academies do not award athletic scholarships because all students receive a stipend while enrolled in school.
Defensive end Tobias Payne signed with North Alabama, while Jordan Waldrep is heading to Belhaven University of Jackson, Miss.
“This is one of the happiest days of my life,” said Crittendon, a 5-foot-9 and 210-pound linebacker known as an emotional and intense player.
“When we were about to fax our letters this morning, with all the emotions, I was like, ‘Man, this is real. It’s about to really happen. All my hard work paid off.’ Now it’s time to start from square one and work some more to reach my next goals.”
Wearing Murray State hats with sweater vests and ties, Crittendon and Willard spent several minutes after the celebration posing for photos with friends and family.
“This is just another day where I’m thankful for everything I’ve been blessed with,” Willard said. “Playing college football has always been a dream of mine, and I’m grateful for getting that opportunity. I plan on making the most of it, but the best part is that I’m not going up there alone. I’ll have Lamont by my side, and we’ll help push each other to make sure our dreams are fulfilled.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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