Well over 50 people crammed into Great Falls High School’s media center Wednesday to watch Shyheim Kelly and Tyquan ‘Ty’ Ross sign their national letters of intent to play college football. Ross signed with Coastal Carolina, Great Falls’ highest profile signee since Josh Lynn went to Furman in 2009, and several branches of his family tree, as well as much of the school’s student body, squeezed into the room, and spilled over into two others.
“I’ve played a lot of football games in front of a lot of people,” said Ross, sporting a black and teal bow tie. “And that was more nerve-wracking than all of them.”
He laughed, adding, “It felt good though. I’m glad I’ve got the support of my school, the town and that everybody came to see me.”
The scene, filled with the lip-licking scent of a pot of barbecue cocktail weenies, embodied the original wonder of national signing day, before all the drama and egos and live television specials crept in. Later the same day, about 10 people gathered in a considerably quieter Rock Hill High School conference room and watched Lee Wooden sign his NLI to run cross country and track and field at Montreat College with the hopes of one day becoming a youth minister. Different settings, but no less momentous for Wooden or Ross, and their families.
National signing day is also about the adventure, the possibilities. Kelly signed with Notre Dame College, a Division II school based in Cleveland, Ohio. He sent his football highlights from last fall all over the country thanks to the Hudl digital video web site.
“I sent it to all kinds of schools, schools I’ve never heard of,” he said.
Notre Dame, not the Notre Dame, but still a four-year college offering an on-ramp to higher education, got in touch with Kelly and began the recruiting process. Kelly and his father Johnny drove nine hours to Ohio two weeks ago to check out the school. He was asked what the campus looked like.
“I really couldn’t see it. There was snow everywhere,” said Kelly, grinning. “I ain’t ever been in that much snow.”
Kelly said he’s generally against snow, but did offer a “we’ll see.” He is a wonderful example of how much the college dream means to many young people, who are willing to start a new life with the hope of a better one down the road.
“The way it was looking, I was thinking I wasn’t gonna get to play nowhere,” said Kelly. “I refused to not play nowhere.”
And for all the parents – God bless them, don’t forget the parents – and family members and best friends and girl and boyfriends, national signing day ceremonies are as chest-swelling for the coaches as much as anybody.
“Just to have the opportunity to know that they got an opportunity to get an education, that’s all the payment I’ll ever need,” said Schofield. “It’s a great day, a great day.”
When Schofield was asked if he foresaw Wednesday’s events when he first encountered Ross four years ago, he replied with a bit of wisdom. It summed up how difficult the journey to a barbecue-smelling media center with a table, a college hat and a piece of very important paper awaiting a signature can be.
“Ty’s always been a worker. Lift weights, go home and lift weights again. Very smart kid. Good leadership,” said Schofield. “So, we saw this all the way through. In all of your kids you see this; you’ve just got to make sure it happens.”