XENIA — As a crowd of more than 100 student athletes and coaches looked on, Xenia High School football coach Bob DeLong introduced five Buccaneers football players who were on hand to celebrate the signing their National Letters of Intent, Thursday in the school’s Doug Adams Fitness Facility.
Offensive and defensive lineman Tyler Steward, and wideout/defensive back Korey Stills both chose to attend Wittenberg University; Tyler Campbell, an offensive and defensive lineman, will attend the University of Findlay; WR/DB Eddie McGee will attend Dean College; and kicker/punter Kole Patterson signed to attend West Virginia State.
Patterson was named a Division I All-Ohio honorable mention selection this past season, the first Buccaneer player to earn all-state honors in several years.
“This is my 27th time doing this, and it hasn’t been any easier than the previous 26,” DeLong said. “This is particularly a really good group. We’ve got five student athletes who are going to come home with college degrees in four years or so, and that’s what this is really about.
“As we get closer to the moment, when class schedules are determined and roommates are arranged, I think it becomes more of a realization that this is really more about attending college. It’s not just about football. I started telling them it was college and not just football about six months ago, but I didn’t think that they believed me. Now they are starting to realize it, they even have to buy books!”
The crowd laughed. DeLong said some of the students turned down offers from bigger schools because they felt the smaller school was a better academic fit for them, and their coach applauded those decisions.
“I think that’s a very mature decision, and not an easy one to make,” he said. He also credited the Adams facility, actually the students who put in the time and effort to work out in the state-of-the-art facility, for helping to bring more student athletes to the signing table each year.
Each student got up in front of the crowd and thanked their families, coaches and fellow players for their support. They then mugged for photos first together as a fivesome, then individually with their families.
Before the picture taking began, DeLong reminded the underclassmen on hand that their college possibilities begin with their freshman years in high school. He said 2-3 other players did not get signed on at the college level, because they were unable to get their grades to the necessary level.
“They didn’t get it done in the classroom. And if you don’t get it done in the high school classroom, you don’t belong in class at a university,” he said. “I’ve said this for many years now. When it comes to getting into college, it’s not about ability it’s about performance.
“To you underclassmen, don’t be that guy who falls short. Be like these five, instead.”