Wednesday marked the day when high school football players across the country put pen to paper and committed the next four years of their playing careers to the school of their choosing. Things were no different here in the Valley, where 49 high school seniors from around the greater Phoenix area showed up at Majerle’s Sports Grill in Chandler to sign their letters and talk to the media.
The national media will be dominated with talk of four and five star recruits and their athletic prowess. That is all well and good, but lost in the talk of top recruiting classes and who will dominate the college gridiron is what the day truly signifies.
When you’re in a room with a group of recruits, like assembled in Chandler Wednesday morning, you realize that these aren’t just names on a list with a position and a national ranking. No, these are 17 and 18-year old kids trying to chase a dream.
While names like Todd Peat Jr, Mo Latu and Ka’Deem Carey and schools like Nebraska, Oregon and Auburn will dominate the local headlines, there are plenty of kids out there just happy to be extending their football careers and getting an education.
Take JeRyan Butler, the 5-foot-10-inch defensive back from Tempe Marcos de Niza. Rivals ranked him a two star recruit and the 142nd best at his position in the country. Despite not being viewed by the national website as one of the top prospects in the nation, he couldn’t have seemed happier Wednesday as he committed to attend South Dakota State University. Stars, rankings, and other people’s opinions didn’t seem to matter. For him the day marked the start of the next phase of his life and a chance to continue playing a sport he’s been in love with since the third grade.
“This is what it’s all about,” the high school senior said. “I’ve been dreaming about this day for a long time now and it’s finally coming true. I just want to show my talents on the next level and keep playing. I’m happy to go to college and get my school paid for because of football.”
Butler isn’t the only one that feels that way. Linebacker Kyle Combs won three state titles in his four years in high school, one with Scottsdale’s Charparral high school and two with Notre Dame Catholic. Despite his success, Rivals also ranked him as a two star prospect.
It didn’t seem to matter on Wednesday. Kyle accomplished a dream he had since he was 10 and his family couldn’t have been prouder of the momentous occasion.
“It’s an honor,” the linebacker said. “I’m glad I get to play football another four-years at least. It’s good to have a free education too.”
NCAA Division I football has become big business over the years but what can’t be lost sight of is the fact that, like JeRyan and Kyle, the young men playing this game are all just trying to live out a dream life long.
To put it into perspective, only 1% of college football players will ever make it to the NFL. That means of the 49 players at Majerle’s Wednesday, statistically speaking, less than one of them has a realistic chance of making it to the professional level.
It’s a fact that makes a day like Wednesday all that more special for these athletes.