East St. John sends 15 student-athletes to next level on National Signing Day
Published 11:45 pm Friday, February 7, 2014
By RYAN ARENA
LAPLACE — The River Parishes are known to be a hot bed for athletic talent, and National Signing Day reflected that fact yet again.
38 athletes — 33 of them football players — put pens to paper Wednesday and made their collegiate destinations official, highlighted by a 15-man class at East St. John.
West St. John saw seven athletes sign at the next level (see accompanying story); Hahnville 10 and Destrehan six.
It was a full house at the St. John School Board building to witness East St. John’s signing day ceremony, the 15-man class representing the highest number in the program’s history.
The day was highlighted inpart by Division I commitment Daren Williams, a 6-foot-4 defensive end who made his commitment to Tulane official after briefly wavering in the direction of Kansas State last week.
“I feel extremely comfortable about it,” said Williams. “I really felt this vibe, that I was at home there. Everything fell into place there.”
Williams said that he made his final decision Sunday night.
“With D-Bo and Leonard (Darion Monroe and Leonard Davis, ESJ alums who signed with Tulane) up there already, that already made me feel like I’ll fit right in. It’s a wonderful feeling. They’ve got a new stadium coming. It just feels like the right move.”
Another signing of note saw Williams’ fellow defensive lineman, Davaron Stockman, who signed with Dartmouth. He is believed to be East St. John’s first Ivy League player. Stockman also had offers from Tulane, Georgetown and Brown.
“It’s surreal,” said Stockman.
“It’s something I’ve worked for through my entire high school career. This is a great day. Seeing all of my buddies, teammates here signing today … I wish it were even more.”
Stockman plans to study to become an electrical engineer.
“As we talked about it, I told him that if you graduate even in the bottom portion of your class at Dartmouth in engineering, you’re going to start off with a job around 100K,” said East St. John coach Phillip Banko. “He told me, ‘Coach, that’s what I want.’ And I said, ‘Well, it sounds like you have your answer.’
All four starting East St. John defensive lineman made their decisions official Wednesday, with Charlie Payne signing with Grambling and Lorne McGuffy on to Southern.
All four players tallied over 10 sacks this season, led by Williams’ team-high 19.
“That front held it down,” said Williams. “Every single game. That was an awesome experience, playing with those guys.”
Added Stockman, “I’m the youngest of all of them. They’re kind of like my big brothers. We knew each others weaknesses and strengths. It was amazing.”
Blaize Diaz, Karon Wilkens, Jeron Smith and Jacob McNeil are all headed to Belhaven. Andrew Weber and Trey Harris will trek to Henderson State. Derek Simoneaux (Kenyon College), Daryl Means (Bluffton), Ashton Miller (Denison), Kyle Patterson (Promfret Prep) and Rashaud Taylor (Southeast Prep) rounded out the Wildcat signees.
“It’s a testament to these kids, the community and our staff,” said Banko.
“What a wonderful opportunity for these guys.”
Banko said that seeing the last two signing classes off meant that much more due to the adversity his team has gone through over the past two seasons, with the fallout from 2012’s Hurricane Issac leaving East St. John’s campus and fieldhouse flooded and the school’s day-to-day activities displaced to the former Leon Godchaux Jr. High campus.
“It means a lot. And we’ve got 24 seniors set for next year,” said Banko.
“When you talk senior leadership, it makes a tremendous difference, especially in the trenches.’
“When you sit here and look at what’s going on today, not just here but throughout the River Parishes, it gives you an idea of the kind of football we play here. It’s up there with the best in the state.”