Knoxville (WATE) – Wednesday was a day full of dotted lines, signatures and smiles all across East Tennessee as the latest era of area athletes made pursuing their passion at the next level official.
Bearden kicked things off at 7:45 A.M., with two Bulldogs, Dakota Davis and Jordan Ferguson heading to Chattanooga, while Cam Miller and Tyler Cooper are staying close to home and heading to Carson-Newman.
Their cross-town rival Hardin Valley was one of three schools holding their ceremony at 8 A.M. Gabe Martin (Tennessee Wesleyan) and Blake Enis (Tusculum College) signed for soccer, while Tim Frizzell (Appalachian State) and Braden Cloyd (Maryville College) signed for football.
At Knoxville Catholic, seven football players signed. Amari Rodgers (Clemson), Chase Kuerschen (Tulane), Jeffrey Wood (Chattanooga), Chase Cunningham (MTSU), Anthony Scott III (Birmingham Southern), Beau Hollin (Birmingham Southern), John Kerbyson (Hutchinson Community College).
“It means a lot, it shows how much I’ve grown,” Rodgers said. “All the hard work, blood sweat and tears, and it’s a blessing.”
Georde Goodwyn started running track a year ago, now he’ll be doing it for Tennessee as a member of both the cross country and track and field teams.
“This is a dream come true,” Goodwyn said.
Over at Farragut, ten student athletes were celebrated. Cooper Hardin won a state title with the Admirals, now he’s on to Navy.
“It always feels good to sign with the place that noticed you first,” Hardin said.
Jack DeVault (Carson-Newman), Davis Simmons (Tennessee Tech), Amon Johnson (Maryville College) signed in football. Grace Sommi (Samford soccer), Tyler Stinnet (Palm Beach Atlantic lacrosse), Jaylen Steene (Tennessee Wesleyan lacrosse), Tanner Elwood (Tennesee Wesleyan lacrosse) and Austin Bihlmeyer (ETSU soccer) signed their letters of intent as well.
HVA’s Hardin wasn’t the only area athlete moving on to a service academy.. alongside four teammates Maryville star T.D. Blackmon signed with Air Force during a 9:45 A.M. ceremony.
“We’ve had great coaches,” Blackmon said. “Coach Quarles is a legend, they’ve prepared me well, I’m ready for the next level.”
Michael Hall (University of the Cumberlands), Isaac Keller (Lindsey Wilson), Matthew Cone (Duke), and Blake Oliveira (Citadel) were the other Rebels.
At 10 A.M., teammates at South-Doyle, Kent’ta Tanner and Jake Harper decided they’ll do it again at Georgia Military College.
At 10:30 A.M., one of the most decorated players in the history of Campbell County football Mike Rhoades signed his letter of intent to chase down quarterbacks at Tennessee Tech.
“I didn’t really know if I was gonna get any offers,” Rhoades said. “It was amazing. I was so excited I couldn’t believe it.”
At 10:45 A.M., smoke machines, impressive graphics and a personalized set up greeted Clemson signee Tee Higgins and five other Oak Ridge athletes. Higgins’ coach Joe Gaddis called him the best athlete he’s seen in 42 years coaching.
“It means a lot, I never knew that,” Higgins said. “Just knowing he said that about me makes me want to work even harder.”
Kyndall Clarik (Gardner-Webb University football), as well as Alex Sherles (ETSU volleyball), Jake Etheridge (UT-Chattanooga cross country), Leah Scudder (Erskine College soccer), and David Dunn (Stanford rowing) were celebrated as well.
First Baptist Academy saw their first college ever– Madison Crumpton playing soccer at Tusculum.
At Greenback, Kayne Roberts signed with North Carolina, going from the smallest classification in the state of Tennessee (1A) to a Power 5 program with the Tarheels.
“People asked if I could even get a scholarship playing in 1A,” Roberts said. “But if you can play ball, you can play ball.”
Hunter Willis and Tavin Kilpatrick both signed with Tennessee Tech.
And just before noon, eight athletes at CAK– including the state’s all-time leader in passing yardage, Cole Smith, who will be studying engineering and playing at Princeton.
“I’m not nervous, just ready to get up there,” Smith said.
At 2 P.M. two at Fulton, Zack Dobson and Chaton Mobley heading to MTSU. The day was an emotional moment for Dobson.
“I just wish my brother was here, because I know he wanted to pick my school and be there when I signed my papers, we talked about it a lot,” Dobson said.
His brother Zaevion was very proud Wednesday, as Dobson and Mobley fly off as roommates to Murfreesboro.
“Everybdoy don’t get to play with their best friend every day,” Mobley said.
Central’s Isaac Buell will be playing football at Virginia.
And Alcoa wrapping up the day, at 3:45 P.M. with seven football players. Jaylen Myers (Gardner-Webb University), Taylenn McNear (Thomas More), Larry Hodge (University of the Cumberlands), Malik Salter (University of the Cumberlands), Terran Cox (Union College), and Dontae Walden (Becker College). Coming off another state title, the Tornadoes are ready for the next level.
“Our coaches prepared us for the next level. All four years, high tempo practices. I believe we’re ready,” Salter said.