VERNON, Fla (WJHG/WECP) - Wednesday marked National Signing Day, the first day high school seniors can sign binding football scholarship offers.
Here's a taste of the day, Vernon style, where all 11 football seniors, with the help of the coaches there, have found a place to play, and more importantly, attend college with serious financial help.
"Today at Vernon High School simply has no equal. We have basically done something very historical today." Vernon High School Principal Brian Riviere said it. The Jackets made school history on National Signing Day.
"We have signed 22 college scholarships of a class, approximately 78 students which represents nearly 35% of our senior population that will today sign a scholarship in excess of nearly $800,000 just within those 22 students," Riviere said.
All 10 senior football players signed to continue their education and football career at the college level.
"We did our job," Vernon head football coach Willie Spears said. "Part of my job description is help each athlete and student accomplish their goals. Not just to win football games, not just to teach them plays, but to help them socially, even spiritually, academically, athletically."
"It takes a good coaching staff, it takes great teachers that can stand behind these students," Riviere said. "Many times these students don't have a formal offer. We have to go and try to get those offers."
But it wasn't easy for these student athletes to get where they are today.
"People didn't see them struggling to pass that test score, going to that extra tutoring," Spears said. "We were here at 112 degree heat, probably not safe, so today is a culmination of a whole lifetime of hardwork and dedication, but it's not the end. Today should be a catalist for them to go get that degree."
For some, this is an opportunity to get out of Washington County, and move on to bigger things.
"When we sat these seniors down and asked them, 'What do you want to do after high school,' each one of them said, 'Coach, if I could play college football, doesn't matter the level, but if I could get out of Washington County and further my career, I would like to do so,'" Spears said.
"To be able to have an accumulation of this many athletes, this many scholars, this many extra curricular opportunities, again it just shows no matter the size of the school or community, that we can push these kids to do great things," Riviere said.
If you're wondering how Vernon's successful in getting this many students signed to college scholarships, "So for each student athlete, I called, or contacted, or text 100 schools according to their playing ability, and their grades and test scores and somebody said, 'I want that guy to play for me,'" Spears said.
"Publicizing these kids with their stats and game film, and the offers show up because of that," Riviere said.
"The orange and blue's going to be all over the nation, baby! I mean, it's a great day to be a Jacket," Spears said. "Come back to visit. We'll hug you, we'll love on you, but go get that degree."
Ryan Malloy - Fullback - Lyon College in Batesville, AR
Joseph Smith - Offensive Lineman - Lyon College in Batesville, AR
Darrius Peterson - Linebacker - Benedict College in Columbia, SC
Darrion Peterson - Defensive Lineman - Benedict College in Columbia, SC
Howard Freeman - Defensive Back - Benedict College in Columbia, SC
Jaylen Davis - Defensive Back - Benedict College in Columbia, SC
Q'Darius George - Defensive Lineman - Arkansas Baptist JC in Little Rock, AR
Jordan Peterson - Tight End - Arkansas Baptist JC in Little Rock, AR
Adrean Rogers - Defensive Back - Arkansas Baptist JC in Little Rock, AR
Marlon Stephens - Defensive Line - Arkansas Baptist JC in Little Rock, AR
*Darrius Peterson and Marlon Stephens are both two time 1st team all-state selections.
Take Stock in Children Scholarship- John English, Darrius Peterson, Courtney Hendrix
Military (Army) Scholarship- Greg Keister
Band- Matthew Spittler, Troy; John English, Niki Leonberger, Flager; Breanna Pate, Carley Kirk
Academic- Cassie Smith, Johnnie Mae Evans,
Softball- McKenzie Faison, Courtney