Several National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame Chapters staged events yesterday as part of National Signing Day, where the most promising high school senior student-athletes signed national letters of intent to play football in college.
“We congratulate all of the seniors who signed national letters of intent yesterday,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “They now have the opportunity to follow their dreams of playing at the next level while continuing their educations. We have heard from countless college players that their scholarships changed their lives. The scholarships that these young men have received will have an impact on their lives not only for the next four years but the next forty years.”
The Touchdown Club of Atlanta-NFF Chapter again helped stage one of the largest signing day events in the nation, which took place at the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience in the heart of Atlanta. The event, which has taken place for more than 17 years, marked the fourth time the chapter played a role in the event and the third time at the Hall. More than 270 student-athletes from 46 high schools across the state signaled their choices during a seven-hour live webcast, which was emceed by broadcasters from the local FOX 5 (WAGA-TV) Sports team and Sports Radio 680 The Fan. Multiple media outlets covered the events, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Gwinnett Daily Post.
“This day is just as exciting for the Division I player as the Division III one,” said Lee Baker, a member of the Touchdown Club of Atlanta-NFF Chapter and the chapter liaison for the event. “Whether he’s playing at Reinhardt University (Ga.) or for the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, this is a day of celebration for the entire high school community. The colleges and universities can’t have these players on campus yet so this is a day that we can bring the entire community together. This event gets bigger and better every year.”
The range of colleges that garnered a recruit ran the gamut at the Atlanta event, including multiple divisions and conferences. More than 107 colleges and universities garnered at least one commitment during the event, including Air Force, Alabama, Army, Auburn, Berry (Ga.), Cincinnati, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Colorado State, Columbia, Connecticut, Duke, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, Harvard, James Madison, Kennesaw State, Louisiana, Louisville, Maryland, Michigan, Navy, North Carolina, Northwestern, Ole Miss, Oregon State, Penn, Point (Ga.), Princeton, Purdue, Reinhardt (Ga.), Southern California, Southern Miss, Stanford, Tennessee, Tulane, Valdosta State (Ga.), Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan.
The NFF Valley of the Sun Chapter hosted its Fifth Annual College Signing Day event at Majerle’s Sports Grill Desert Ridge in Phoenix, Ariz., with 30 signees making announcements. Long-time local radio host Kevin McCabe emceed the event, garnering reaction for each of the signees. Several VIPs turned out to congratulate the student-athletes on their major milestone, including former NFF President Bob Casciola, former Northern Arizona head coach Larry Kentera and 2016 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Herb Orvis (Colorado). KPNX-TV (NBC-12), KTBK-TV (Channel-3) and The Arizona Republic covered the event.
“This is a really special event because it is an opportunity for students to share where they’re going to college, whether it’s a Division I school or a smaller divisional school, and they can be the highlight of the day and shine in front of their family members, mom and dad, grandma and grandpa,” said NFF Valley of the Sun Chapter President Janie Riddle. “Some kids have ceremonies at their schools, but it’s not the same when you can come out in front of everybody in the Valley of the Sun. It’s just another memory in their life history book which they’ll never forget and from here they’re on a new road.”
Colleges and universities that garnered a recruit at the Phoenix event included Arizona, Arizona Christian, Arizona State, Arizona Western, Black Hills State (S.D.), Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State-Pueblo, Columbia, Glendale Community College (Ariz.), Idaho, Oregon, San Jose State, Utah, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin.
The NFF Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter staged its second signing day event behind the leadership of Chapter President Bob Bunton, who last year described the day as simply one of the most rewarding experiences in his 25 years of involvement with the NFF. This year, he expressed his amazement about the growth of the event and the excitement, especially among the parents. The chapter worked closely with the St. Louis Metropolitan Coaches Association, and in the end the event, a continental breakfast at Norwood Hills Country Club, attracted 82 players, an increase of 25 signees, from 25 schools as well as all of the local TV stations and reporters from the St. Louis Post Dispatch and St. Louis Today.
“We had 250 people in the room. This is a win-win for the media, the kids, parents, the coaches, the football community and our chapter,” said Bunton. “It’s an opportunity to continue to promote not only the National Football Foundation but our mission, which is to recognize kids. We made 82 kids feel very significant. To me what was most rewarding was to see five kids who did not know each other heading to Ivy League schools and getting to know each other and hopefully becoming friends for life. I think that’s neat.”
Schools garnering commitments at the NFF Tom Lombardo/St. Louis Chapter event this year included Ball State, Brown, Dartmouth, Dayton, Illinois State, Miami (Ohio), Missouri State, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Southeast Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Wake Forest, Washburn (Kan.) and Yale. EPSN radio host Randy Karraker emceed the event, and Howard Richards, an All-American at Missouri who played in the NFL, gave opening remarks, telling the signees to not blow their good fortune while encouraging them to take full advantage of their college scholarships.
“Football creates a wide range of opportunities for the more than 1.1 million student-athletes who play the game at the high school level,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “National Signing Day represents the culmination of an amazing amount of hard work by our sport’s most promising players, and we are proud that several of our chapters have taken a leadership role in creating a unique stage to showcase their accomplishments.”