On Feb. 4 hundreds of high school and college football players had exactly one thing in common: they all had to sign their names.
Feb. 4 was the first day those men, who have been scouted and recognized, signed a National Letter of Intent to play football for colleges around the country.
According to the NCAA, the NLI is a document signed by a potential recruit who is agreeing to attend that school for one academic year in exchange for financial aid.
Since the NCAA put the NLI in place, the group is responsible for enforcing its many rules.
For example, recruiting calls and all contact with a prospective student athlete must be complete once they sign an NLI. That means no text messages, no voice mails and no “visits” for any reason.
However, signee’s also have to watch their behavior once they sign an NLI. As soon as a student athlete has “inked” with a school, they must attend that academic institution for an entire year with no exceptions. Once an NLI is signed, that athlete is stuck with that institution for an entire year if they want to participate in NCAA sanctioned sports.
TJC Apache Football had 42 young men sign their name on the dotted line Feb. 4, many of them from East Texas.
There were 16 Mid-Year signees and 26 others who will join the team in 2009. Head Coach Danny Palmer was pleased with his new crop of talent.
“The depth of talent that we have been able to bring together from the East Texas area is much improved over the previous years,” Palmer said.
Football talent is never scarce in the East Texas area as made evident by the multiple state football championships won by Tyler Lee and John Tyler high schools alone.
These schools have produced outstanding football players like Lee’s Matt Flynn, now a back-up quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, and John Tyler’s Aaron Ross, who starts at cornerback for the G-Men of the New York Giants.
Unlike previous years, Apache football will have some home-grown men on the roster in the 2009 season, seven signees are Tyler Lee graduates.
However it’s not all about the Apache signees.
Nine players who called TJC home and played football for the black and gold this past semester will all have new homes in the fall. Two TJC Apaches will join the Big 12 conference. Phillip Blake, an offensive lineman, signed with Baylor and Calvin Rubles, a cornerback, signed with the Kansas Jayhawks.
There will even be a TJC representative in the Pac-10 conference. Ryan Taylor, also an offensive lineman, signed with UCLA.
However, taking the step to the next level means working that much harder.
“I’ve been following this workout book that UCLA gave me, which requires a two and a half hour work out everyday,” Taylor said. “It’s not very easy.”
It may not be easy, but that’s what it takes to be the starting left guard at UCLA, and that’s exactly what Ryan Taylor will be.
For Phillip Blake, it’s not all about the physical preparation that he is sure to undergo at Baylor. It starts and ends for him in the classroom.
“The main thing I want to accomplish at Baylor is to get my degree. I want to be able to show my mom that I took care of business and got my degree,” Blake said.
In the days and years to come, maybe TJC will have yet a fourth football standout playing in pro football’s biggest and brightest spectacle, the Super Bowl.