River Region sees 22 sign to play at next level
Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2012
BY RYAN ARENA
The River Region is never a dull or quiet place on National Signing Day, but the 2012 edition certainly stands out as one of the most productive.
Twenty-two local football standouts in all inked letters of intent to play at the next level Wednesday, with all eight area schools represented amongst that total.
For St. Charles Catholic, it was a signing day like none before, as four Comets signed on the dotted line: cornerback Jeffrey Hall (Colorado), running back Lazedrick Thompson (Tulane), defensive end LaJaylin Smith (North Texas) and running back Marcus Hall (Missouri Southern).
Jeffrey Hall made his decision this week.
“I felt at home out there. I’m really excited for the chance to play at that level,” he said. “The coaching staff and the people out there made me feel more than welcome.”
Thompson made his commitment prior to the prep season, before new Green Wave coach Curtis Johnson was hired to replace former coach Bob Toledo. But he stuck with his choice, noting that after meeting with Johnson, he had confidence that Tulane was still the right place for him.
“He’s got a lot of energy, he’s always full of energy,” said Thompson. “I can’t help but be excited. When a coach has that type of attitude, it pumps his team up.”
Smith made his decision after taking a visit last week.
“I could tell they had my best interests in mind,” said Smith, who will move to outside linebacker. “They treated me like family … They’ve got an awesome stadium. It’s one of a kind. When coach called me in and said they were going to offer me, on the spot I said I’m coming.”
Marcus Hall said that he appreciated the efforts Missouri Southern made in landing him.
“They showed a lot of interest, and I wanted to show them the love back,” said Hall. “Just the experience of it all is something I can’t wait for. Making memories, playing in front of the fans, and just college life in general.”
West St. John also made a trip to the Superdome this season, finishing as 1A state runner-up, and the Rams also had four signees. Defensive end Ronnie Feist made Tiger Stadium his official destination, signing with LSU, while wide receiver Austin Terry (Langston University of Oklahoma), offensive lineman Willie Youngblood and defensive lineman Steven Brignac (both Lincoln University of Missouri) will join him in the collegiate ranks.
Feist already has his eyes on the Orange Bowl in Miami, where the 2013 BCS Championship Game will be played.
“It’s a nice feeling,” said Feist. “And I was happy not only to sign, but to see my fellow commitments sign and officially become part of the LSU family and get this march to Miami started.”
Perhaps the day’s biggest waves came from East St. John, as quarterback Darion Monroe signed with Tulane and defensive lineman Gerron Borne signed with New Mexico.
Each player changed commitments after coaching changes at their respective original choices: Monroe was originally set to attend Texas A&M under coach Mike Sherman, while Borne was to sign with Arizona to play under Mike Stoops. Each coach was replaced during or after the season.
Monroe’s change of heart was cemented officially in the hours before signing day, when he made the switch public.
“It came down to how much I trusted coach Johnson,” said Monroe. “He’s got plans to do great things at Tulane, and I want to be a big part of that.”
After changing his commitment, Monroe “took some heat” from fans of other schools, among others, on Twitter.
“That’s a part of the game. I made a big decision and some people hate it. But I love it. I think it’s the right decision for me,” he said.
He signed surrounded by family and friends, many of whom had bought Tulane shirts just for the occasion.
“They made this bigger than I thought it would be,” he said.
Borne said that New Mexico was an attractive destination in large part because of defensive coordinator Ron West, who recruited Borne while West was still at his previous job at Illinois.
“He told me wherever he’d end up, he’d still recruit me,” said Borne. “That said a lot to me. I really like the environment there, the people, the atmosphere … I felt at home. I felt like I was on top of a mountain as soon as I got off of the plane for my visit.”
Riverside running back Nate Williams represented the Rebels Wednesday, as he joined Terry and signed on to play at Langston.
“This has to be one of the greatest days of my life,” said Williams. “It’s a blessing. I have a chance to play, and to receive a good education … to see everyone here today, it just feels good.”
Hahnville set the high mark of signees in the region with five: defensive backs Jerqwinick Sandolph (LSU), Tyren Hills (UL-Monroe) and Johnell Celistan (Tulsa), receiver Ronnie Greene and lineman Robert Lay (both with College of the Desert in California).
Destrehan saw three players sign in defensive lineman B.J. Singleton (Houston) and Derek Robinson (Southeastern) and quarterback Dillan Dent (Missouri Southern).
At Lutcher, defensive back Jordan Batiste will also play for Johnson at Tulane. Meanwhile, the school’s all-time rushing leader, Daniel Taylor, will head to play at Northwestern State.
St. James running back Kenneth Armant became the third local athlete to sign on with Missouri Southern.