Oftentimes lost in the shuffle of National Signing Day, ESPN crews and all-day recruiting specials, is the student-athlete.
The original purpose for collegiate athletic scholarships was to provide financial help in exchange for hard-work and dedication to both sport and academics.
For 12 Manhattan Indians, as well as hundreds of other high-school seniors across the state, Wednesday was a day to celebrate the opportunity to attend college and continue playing the sport they love, not to appease the national media or create a certain amount of buzz over players that may not see the field for two years anyway.
Manhattan High held a signing day ceremony on campus for 11 athletes who made their college decisions, including five football players and six girls’ soccer players.
The situation for the soccer girls is unique in that three of them chose McPherson College, while the three others all chose Fort Hays State University.
“All six had multiple schools recruiting them,” girls’ soccer coach Mike Sanchez said. “But it just happened to be coincidence that they will end up playing together.”
Goalkeeper Kristen Thompson, forward Bailey Snyder, center back Jennifer Then each signed letters of intent to play at Fort Hays State, while midfielder Kayla Faust, defender Courtney Payne and midfielder/defender Willie Stockton all signed to play at McPherson College.
“I think it was a combination of what these schools had to offer them educationally and the relationship coach (Robert) Talley of McPherson College and coach (Craig) Shaw of FHSU had built a with the girls.”
On the football side, five players signed during the ceremony in the morning. Gabe Caldas and Wyatt Charlson each chose to play at Fort Scott Community College, while Devin Cossman and Chance Drake chose Garden City Community College. Michael Max signed on to play at McPherson College. Later in the day, Jacob Holloway announced via his Twitter account that he plans to play at Fort Hays State.
Manhattan football coach Joe Schartz said the K-State connection in Garden City helped sway Cossman and Drake.
“There are a couple former K-State guys out at Garden City,” he said. “Jeff Kelly recruited this area, and he’s the one that came to the school. He’s a great guy and has a lot of energy, so he made a good connection with Devin and Chance and they really enjoyed their visit to Garden City.”
In the case of Charlson and Caldas, Fort Scott proved to be the best fit for both academics and football.
“Wyatt and Gabe chose Fort Scott, and basically just felt like it was a great fit for them,” Schartz said. “They felt like they had a pretty good opportunity there with the school academically and had the opportunity to play some football.”
For Max, picking McPherson College was more of an academic decision.
“I think he’s known for a long time that he wanted to go to McPherson, and he had the opportunity to continue his football career there,” Schartz said. “I think what led him there was his field of study. He kind of did it backwards. It was his field of study first, then saw the opportunity to play some football.”
Schartz said he still expects some of his players to sign as they continue to explore their options.
“There may be a few more in the near future,” he said. “There are a couple other guys who are looking to walk on somewhere.”
Wethington, Chavis highlight area signings
As expected, Riley County’s Bryce Chavis signed with Butler County Community College, while Wamego’s Marshall Wethington signed with Ottawa University.
Other Red Raiders signing to play football include Dakota Turner (Coffeyville CC), Daniel Jensen (Butler CC) and Brandon Ebert (Kansas Wesleyan).
Rock Creek had two players sign letters of intent on Wednesday, with both Jimmie Goodmiller and Colton Leikam choosing Kansas Wesleyan.
Valley Heights senior Tanner Trimble signed on to play at Coffeyville Community College.
Other notable signings in the Flint Hills area include Jovan Toles of Junction City (Hutchinson CC) and Zach Cook (Fort Scott CC), Brady Moore (Butler CC) and Garrison Wright (Butler CC) of Marysville.