Signing Day big for some, another day for others

Many top football players don’t get chance to play on next level
By: Justin A. Lawson Journal Sports Staff
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National Signing day has become a holiday for college football programs around the country. The day sets the future for high school players and can make or break a college coach’s career depending on his ability to grab the right talent. The day has become so big that newspapers everywhere dedicate their precious space to who went where, it trends on social media sites like Twitter and ESPN covers the event like the Super Bowl. Feb. 1, today, is the day many top-tier athletes dream about putting their name on a piece of paper that will bind them to a school for the next four to five years. But for some, it’s a day that passes by without any fanfare. “I wish I could have gotten a scholarship somewhere because I feel I had the stats,” said Del Oro linebacker Tanner Huber, who will walk on at Brigham Young University. “I had a solid season it’s just that I didn’t get exposed because of the year before with injuries. I’m not the specimen size of 6-2 or anything. It’s tough but it’s going to be good.” While hundreds of players will take in the joy of Signing Day, hundreds of thousands more couldn’t even tell you the date. To them, it’s another Wednesday. High school football teams are littered with players that become all-league selections that don’t play another down after their senior seasons. Take Del Oro for example. The team was good enough to hang with the best programs in the state on its way to a 13-2 record and a berth in the California Interscholastic Federation Division II state championship game. The Eagles fell 35-24 to Helix. Of the 27 graduating seniors just one is set to sign a Letter of Intent today, Alex Bertrando who is expected to sign a Letter of Intent to play linebacker at Nevada next season. “I like that their defense is good and their whole senior class of linebackers is graduating too,” said Bertrando, who had interest from UC Davis and Fresno State among others. “They’re kind of thin at the position so I might be able to get on the field earlier, maybe my sophomore year after I redshirt.” The Eagles’ linebacking corps last season was one of its most talented in recent years. Tanner Huber led the team in tackles with 122, while Bertrando (74) and Alex Mason (63) finished in the team’s top six in tackles. Additionally, all three were named all-league selections. Huber was lucky to get the preferred walk-on offer at BYU. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament on each knee in consecutive seasons. His only other offers came from Division III schools but because he is Mormon said BYU has always been his dream school. Huber said he would play his freshman season before fulfilling his two-year mission requirement and redshirting one season. That would give the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder time to bulk up to college size and leave him with three years of eligibility. “I think I’ll surprise them, hopefully, with how good I am,” Huber said. “I’m not the size they want me yet, but I’m trying to work for it without getting fat. I just need to workout and put on weight and get to the size I need to be and still stay fast.” Defensive back Russell Smith is the only other player expected to sign a Letter of Intent. Del Oro coach Casey Taylor said that would likely happen in the next couple of weeks but wasn’t sure where or what level. That leaves 24 other graduating Eagles without a football home next year. Some of those could find a place to play at Division II or III schools or on the junior college level and have those schools pay for at least part their education. Those rosters are filled with players like all-league selections Zach Heath and Nick O’Sullivan or Mason, who didn’t start until his senior season. Others have already hung up the pads forever. “I think there are some guys on our team that should be signing and we only have one of them,” Taylor said. “And there might be some coming up down the road but a lot of it is where you want to go. In the last couple of years we’ve had some kids have some opportunities and just didn’t want to take them. I think our job as coaches is to give them some exposure and some opportunities where they can make good choices for them. The main thing we’re trying to do is give them some options to use football as a vehicle to get their degree.”