Early National Signing Day Wrap-up

Division I & II recruits highlight talented class of student-athletes

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - For student-athletes around the country, National Signing Day is a culmination and celebration of four years of hard work, dedication, perseverance and athletic achievements. This past Wednesday, a number of athletes in the San Antonio area made their college decisions official by putting pen to paper in front of friends and family.

That includes two athletes at Alamo Heights: Maki Carabin and Katie Detmer. Carabin, a starting middle linebacker for the Mules, has committed to continue his football career with Louisiana Tech, and he's relieved to have finished this entire process.

"It's really relaxing," Carabin said. "I'm set now that I'm a Bulldog, and it's awesome. I really like the culture that they have there. They win a lot of ball games. I went on a visit earlier in the year, and it felt like home. After that visit I didn't want to be anywhere else. I'm going in there with the intention of getting better every single day. I'm not necessarily looking to play early, but I'm definitely hoping to play very soon and help my team win a Conference USA championship."

Detmer, a defenseman and midfielder for the Mules' girls soccer team, has chosen to study and compete at Angelo State next season. With plans to major in business management and minor in criminal justice, Detmer thinks that Angelo State is the right fit for her.

"I love the school and I love the atmosphere," Detmer explained. "The coaches are awesome there, and they have a really great soccer program. They're really excited to have me there to work hard. I'm looking to work for a starting position day one."

Over at Brandeis, a pair of Broncos from the football team made their decisions official. Tight end Oscar Cardenas chose to stay local and signed with UTSA. The Roadrunners are coming off a tough 2018 season, but Cardenas remains positive that he made the right decision.

"There are some missing pieces, but I can't wait to be the best I can be over there," said Cardenas. "It felt like home when I went there and they treated me well. It's an opportunity to get a great education, and it's an opportunity to keep playing football."

Cardenas' fellow teammate Brent Malone, a middle linebacker for the Broncos, signed to continue his playing career at Harvard University, and he says the prestige of an Ivy League education influenced his choice.

"It's an honor," Malone explained. "That's the main reason why I chose this school. It's not just an athletic scholarship. I'm also increasing my academic intelligence, and that's a huge step for me. I hope to just be the best player I can be whenever I get there, and I'll be playing on the defensive side of the ball. I just need to keep my head on straight. It's all a blessing. There's so much hard work behind the scenes put into this, both athletically and academically for both of us, and we're both very blessed to be put in this position."

There was only one collegiate signing over at John Jay High School: Jacob Zeno, one of the premier quarterbacks in the area, officially committed to play for the Baylor Bears. With his eyes on a starting role sooner rather than later, Zeno believes he's ready to compete at the next level.

"That's the plan," Zeno said. "I'm the quarterback of the future. I've just got to go in there and do my job, and I'm ready to get up there and get going."

Zeno also explained why he felt Baylor was the right fit for him.

"It's just a whole family atmosphere," Zen said. "Everything felt like home. It feels good. It's a lot of weight off of my shoulders. I'll be there in three weeks, so now I can just focus on football."

Meanwhile, four Judson Rockets signed their letters of intent to compete at the Division I level. Headlining the list is a five-star recruit -- defensive end DeMarvin Leal, who committed to play for the Texas A&M Aggies in the Southeastern Conference.

"It's a relief that this process is actually over with, so I can just focus on football again," Leal explained. "The coaches, the fanbase, the alumni, every part of A&M just made it easy for me. I just can't wait to get up there. Playing at Judson has helped me prepare in so many different ways, both mentally and physically. I'm going to get a lot bigger because it's just going to be straight football from now on."

Two of the Rockets' biggest playmakers have decided to stay local in the San Antonio area and signed with UTSA: running back Sincere McCormick and safety Rashad Wisdom. Both say the double-signing was a welcome coincidence.

"We just happened to end up at the same place," McCormick explained. "They've been with me since the beginning. The Roadrunners were my first offer freshman year and it's been a great relationship with them. I'm looking forward to starting my next journey. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I'm proud of myself. I'm proud of all of the people that have been around me to support me along the way. I'm blessed to be in this situation, and I'm blessed to be here with all of my friends and family."

"I've been having this dream since I was six years old, and just to be able to fulfill it with a bunch of guys that I've grown up with the past few years is big to me," Wisdom said. "With the proximity for my family, I know they'll be able to make it to every game and come support me with regardless of where I'm at. Academically, I want to get into cyber security, and I know how good UTSA's program is. I know I'll be able to get on the field early and contribute. UTSA wants to help me a lot, and they want me to help them get to where they want to be. I'm going there willing to work from day one. That's why I decided to leave early because it's time to get to work."

Fellow Rocket Kevin Wood is also moving on to compete at the Division I level. The linebacker has signed on to continue his career at North Texas, and after the signing ceremony, he said this moment has been a dream of his since the beginning of his high school football career.

"Freshman year, we talked about this," Wood explained. "While watching the older guys sign, we talked about how we wanted to be there. To finally get here is cool. It means a lot. It was stressful, but it's fun. It's one of the better parts of high school. A lot of kids don't get the opportunity to go through that, so I'm blessed to have this happen. And the good thing about Judson is they taught me how to work hard, how to keep going and keep pushing, and play for the guy next to you. I think I'll fit in there."

To James Madison High School, where Dante Heaggans, a standout quarterback and cornerback for the Mavericks, changed his commitment from Illinois State to the University of the Incarnate Word. The Cardinals are coming off a breakout season in 2018, finishing as Southland Conference Champions for the first time in program history, and Heaggans said the lure of staying local and playing for a good team was too good to pass up.

"Family means a lot to me, so I had a change of heart because staying home is something that I wanted to do," Heaggans explained. "I'm just going to work hard and try to help the team as much as I can. I'll keep learning from the guys that have been there, learn from my coaches, and just get better. The stress is over. No more worrying about where I should go for the next four years."

Heaggans' classmate Graham Torres had a particularly tough decision to make. With the option to play either football or soccer in college, Torres made his college decision based on academics, and chose to play soccer for St. Mary's University next season.

"I ended up going to St. Mary's because they had the engineering program I was looking for, and soccer is just what I want to do overall," Torres said. "It's great. It's just 30 minutes down the road, so it'll be good to stay home with my friends and family."

At O'Connor High School, offensive lineman Brannon Brown committed to play Big XII football next season. Brown signed with the TCU Horned Frogs, and said he's proud to continue his family's tradition of athletic and academic excellence at the next level.

"Watching my brothers do it growing up kinda gave me something to shoot for, and being able to finally do it and make this dream come true is huge to me," Brown explained. "TCU is home. Ever since I went there, it felt like home. Coach Patterson is really big on family, and his motto is, 'Not just the four years you're there, but the 40 years after you're there.' It's going to be a blast going up there Jan. 8 and working my butt off to maybe fight for a position freshman year. And if not, I'll redshirt and take that year to get bigger, stronger, faster, and more prepared for Big XII play."

Over at Steele high school, six athletes signed their letters of intent to compete at the collegiate level. That includes defensive back Chace Cromartie, whose college plans were altered quickly with this season's coaching changes at Texas State. Instead of playing with the Bobcats next season, Cromartie signed in-state to play for the SMU Mustangs, and he's relieved to be finished with the signing process.

"I had to start reaching out to coaches and talk with them to get back into recruiting again," Cromartie said. "It was hectic, and I was very nervous -- a little shaky on everything because it was last minute. I went to Dallas and the coaches made me feel like I was at home. They made me feel very comfortable, and very welcomed. For my family to see me walk up on stage, sign a piece of paper, and go to college is amazing."

Cromartie's fellow teammate Xavier Player signed to play for Oklahoma State in 2019. The standout cornerback is ready to see how much he can improve with the Cowboys.

"There's no cap to being a great corner, you can always be better," Player said. "They're going to get that out of me, and they're going to get a great team player. I'm going to help the team, lead the team. I'm just trying to help my team win and be the best player I can be on and off the field. The coaches are great. They put you in a great position to make plays. They're really out there for your best interests as players."

There was also a program-first at Steele's signing day this year: Brigid Krbec became the first Knight diver to earn Division I scholarship. After transitioning from a gymnastics background, Krbec found her calling on the springboard.

"I like it because it's very individualized but it's a team sport as well," Krbec explained. "There's always been very few divers at Steele," Krbec said. "For four years it's only been me and one other girl at one time, but there's always been people supporting me throughout the whole thing."

Krbec will compete for the University of North Texas next season, and she said her decision was essentially made after her campus visit last year.

"I went there for junior day last year, and I really liked it," Krbec recounted. "I fell in love with the campus and on my official visit this year, I just fell in love with the team and the environment."

Another large group of student-athletes put pen to paper at Smithson Valley. All told, six athletes made their decisions official, including quarterback Levi Williams, who signed with the University of Houston.

"I'm super excited," Williams explained. "It's a dream come true and I've always thought about it since I was little. I can't imagine going to a better school. There's great coaches and a great community there so I'm just stoked. The first goal is to start, obviously, and then hopefully win some bowl games and hopefully a championship as well."

Classmate Hannah Kollmansberger signed her letter of intent to play softball at Shriner University. The Ranger catcher is excited for a chance to compete at the next level.

"It's always been my dream to play college softball," Kollmansberger said. "The college is really close to home -- it's an hour right down the road. The coaches there are awesome and it's a really small school, so it's very one-on-one with my friends and teachers."

For Rangers pitcher Preston Jones, National Signing Day is another step toward a possible major league career. His decision to compete for Fort Scott College in Kansas next season is largely based on the possibility of competing in the minor leagues in the near future.

"They actually saw me play in Dallas and the coach was interested in me," Jones explained. "I took a trip to the college and talked to the head coach. He told me the pitching coach really saw something in me. I toured around the campus. It was really nice, really baseball oriented and they have it set up where everybody is set up for success. You have to take a mentoring class and a study hall, so you have to have a good grade. It's set up so the entire team has a similar schedule so you have to practice as a team, play as a team, and get better as a team. The plan after two years at Fort Scott is to either get put into a minor league program or potentially, a draft. I might get a little home sick, but I have no problem as long as I get to play the game I love, I'm happy."

For more information on other signings around the San Antonio area, click here.

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