National Signing Day turns a dreary Wednesday into a celebration at MLK High [video]
As treacherous as the path to Martin Luther King High in West Oak Lane was on an icy Wednesday morning, the mood inside the school's gymnasium was jubliant as family, friends and coaches gathered to watch nine graduating football players sign letters of intent to continue playing in college.
Adding another layer of celebration to the morning event was the fact that 2013 Public League Champions jackets were distributed to players for the first time in the Stenton Avenue school's history.
The magnitude of the moment was not missed on Tiameca Hart, whose son Delane intends to play for the University of Toledo Rockets next year.
"It's just so exciting to see. Just thinking back to how far he's come, I'm almost speechless," said Tiameca of her son, a standout wide receiver who, among many other accomplishments, caught the game-winning touchdown at the team's Thanksgiving Day game. "It's just a big day for us."
It was a big day for eight other families, as well.
The players who formally committed to colleges on Wednesday were Brendan Jackson (Cheney University); Savon Hinton and Darius Hurst-Rodney (Alderson Broaddus University, WV); Dontae Angus (West Virginia University); Damon Brinkley and Jordan Alexander (Shippensburg University); James Brewer (Lock Haven University) and Joseph Walker (University of Delaware).
New Blue Hens QB
Walker, the standout quarterback who transferred to MLK from Mastbaum, will head south to play for a University of Delaware Blue Hens program that's sent two QBs go to the Super Bowl, with one (Joe Flacco) winning it for the Baltimore Ravens.
He explained what he liked about what he saw when visiting Newark, Del.
"The facilities. The people. Campus life. The football program," said Walker who aims to make the roster as a true freshman with two seniors and a redshirt freshman already there. "This feels really good today. It feels really good to see everybody being successful and moving onto the next level."
For his part, MLK Principal William Wade saw Wednesday as a sign of things to come.
"From the beginning, when it was just me sitting in a room by myself without having hired a single coach yet, this is what I wanted to build," he said of merging the athletic and academic success necessary for players to qualify for college.
"This is a true example of what we can do with the right team in place," Wade continued. "We want to make sure we're a long-term choice in the Northwest [Philadelphia] community."
Added head coach Ed Dunn, "This is what we wanted to do from the beginning: Win football games and send a lot of kids to college. And we're going to do it over and over again in the future."
Not just MLK
As signing day is a national event, MLK did not feature the lone athletes putting their names on dotted lines on Wednesday.
At an evening event, players on the state runner-up Imhotep Institute Charter High School Panthers football team planned to ceremonially do so despite the fact that their school was closed for inclement weather. (NewsWorks report from that gathering is available at this link).
Also postponed was an event at which six students from William Penn Charter in East Falls were slated to make their collegiate intentions known.
They are soccer players Julianna Casasanto (Chestnut Hill College), Stephanie Soroka (Drexel University) and Lauren Dimes (St. Joseph's University); football wide receiver Corey Kelley (West Chester University) and track-and-field's Scott Mason (Lehigh University) and Charles Hoyt (Lafayette College).