National Signing Day began early at TJC on Feb. 5 as five Apache football players signed their letters of intent to move on and play at Division I schools.
The five – Will Coleman, Caleb Williams, Wawa Leota, Devante Davis and Caleb Brady – joined nine other mid-year signees that had already made their choices official.
“We are very excited today because we have some of our own players that played for us that are signing,” TJC Head Football Coach Danny Palmer said.
The signings were only the beginning of Palmer’s day as the coach spent the remainder of it receiving faxes from high school players that will be Apaches next fall.
The morning, however, belonged to the five signees that were making their next step official in Wagstaff Gym.
Coleman, a defensive lineman from Tyler, signed with Mississippi State. Williams, a wide receiver from Tyler signed with Georgia Southern. Leota, a defensive lineman from Euless, signed with Montana State.
Devante Davis, a linebacker from Dallas, and Caleb Brady, an offensive lineman from Fort Worth, both signed with San Diego State.
“This is a huge day for me and my family,” Davis said. “Especially with my story of being at the top, falling down and pulling myself back up. I am just really excited and really glad I got another shot.”
Davis originally signed with Baylor out of high school, then came to TJC before getting another shot at a Division I school with San Diego State.
“All the hard work I have put in since I graduated from high school, it is all starting to come into play,” Coleman said. “It is a blessing, getting a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference.
“It has always been one of my dreams as a kid. I just want to thank TJC for giving me the opportunity to get there.”
The high profile conference and the needs of the Bulldogs for his position are what drew Coleman to Mississippi State. He also will get the opportunity to contribute right away.
“This is a huge accomplishment,” Williams said. “Going from high school, I broke my foot and thought everything was over, then I got an opportunity at TJC.”
He credited his hard work and being patient for getting the opportunity to play at a Division I school.
“I have dreamed about this day ever since I was young,” Brady said.
Several schools were after him, but Brady felt his best fit was at San Diego State. The school was also the most aggressive in its recruiting of him.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it to this day, but it came.” Leota said. “I am proud of myself.”
Wawa said the people at Montana State made him feel like it was the best fit for him and his future.
The five were part of one of the most successful TJC teams in recent years. The Apaches went 9-2 and won the Football Capital of Kansas Bowl.
All were appreciative of the opportunity and experience that Coach Palmer and the staff gave them.
“I am going to take Coach Palmer’s mentality and spirit,” Brady said. “He always tells us not to give up, not to quit.”
Coleman said that the bowl game is what he will remember the most from his time at TJC. The Apaches defeated Garden City Community College 47-21.
The big-game experience of that game should only help the players as they prepare to compete on a much bigger stage in Division I.
TJC’s mid-year signees were Andre Sanders, who signed with Pittsburg State, Caleb Tuiasosopo with SMU, Conner Groom with Henderson State, Drew Sarvary with the University of Florida, Frank Kee with TCU, Jeremy Miller with University of Nevada-Reno, Josh Reynolds with Texas A&M;, Kennoa Iioka with TCU, Randy Price with Texas State and Tedrick Tilley with Bacone College.
Coach Palmer also said he was pleased with his class of incoming players, which featured 45 high school players from East Texas and beyond.
“I feel real good,” Palmer said. “I know we went heavy on defensive linemen and linebackers. We hope we got running back shored up and got a good quarterback. We felt real good about East Texas again. It seems to be a good group. Nobody is going to say they have a bad group but I think this is an excellent group.”