Wildcats realize dreams on National Signing Day

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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RESERVE — Between COVID, Hurricane Ida, deaths in families, and being moved from campus to campus without access to athletic facilities, the senior class at East St. John did not have a normal football season until this past fall.

Hansen Johnson, Devin Davis and Cortez Fisher stayed the course and didn’t let themselves become defeated. Their perseverance paid off on February 1, 2023. Surrounded by family and teammates, they signed letters of intent to play collegiate football during a National Signing Day ceremony in the Wildcat gymnasium.

Davis will be taking his athletic talents to Alabama State University, while Johnson will play for Eureka College, and Fisher will start his next chapter on the Independence Community College football team.

“It showed on the field that when you give them a sense of normalcy, they show you what they can do,” East St. John Athletic Director Brandon Brown said.

Brown emphasized that it is no small feat to get a college offer, especially in a post-COVID world where college athletes being eligible to play additional years has placed less emphasis on high school recruiting.

When Devin Davis made an official visit to Alabama State University, he was reminded of how the seniors at East St. John took him under their wing when he was a freshman playing football for the first time.

Coach Derron Thomas approached Davis about joining the Wildcats football team after taking note of his size and athletic ability during an eighth grade basketball game.

One of his fondest memories is when he first started lifting weights with the football team and was handed a 3XL shirt even though he wore an XL at the time. “You’ll grow into it,” coaches told him.

Davis knew football would become his sport the first time he made a catch, but developing his talent took time as coaches figured out which position would suit him best. By his junior year, Davis was focused on football with a goal of getting a scholarship.

“He bounced around, started as a defensive lineman and moved to tight end. He finished the season playing both,” Brown said. “I wish we could clone kids like Devin. When we talk about the standard, he is the standard. He was great on and off the field. He’s in our STEM program and does excellent academically.”

Davis feels blessed to be able to prove himself at a big-time football school like Alabama State while pursuing a degree in computer science or mechanical engineering.

Johnson is another athlete who made big strides on the football team during his time at East St. John. Though he was initially nervous coming to a new school as a sophomore after transferring from Georgia, he soon realized that the move changed his life for the better. As he settled into his role at defensive back, coaches and teammates made him feel as if he had been at East St. John for all four years.

“Being with this team, every day has been a proud moment. Win, lose, it didn’t matter,” Johnson said. “I felt like I was living my best life, playing football with my friends and making the city of LaPlace proud.”

Brown said Johnson, was “a pleasant surprise” and the true definition of a leader.

“He fit right in from day one. He had a lot of ability; he was just a little nervous and shy coming to a new environment. Once he got comfortable, he stepped up and became one of our leaders for the past two seasons,” Brown said. “I can’t say enough about him and what he’s done for our program.”

On Signing Day, Johnson expressed that he wants to provide for his family the way they have provided for him the past 18 years. At Eureka, he plans to study kinesiology or psychology while playing football. He chose to commit to Eureka not only because of the school’s solid academic programs, but also based on some advice he received from his cousin.

“He told me, ‘Go where you feel wanted.’ I felt wanted by Eureka,” Johnson said.

As Cortez Fisher prepares for a new beginning at Independence Community College in Kansas, he wants the world to know that he’s ready for the unknown. He’s been blessed with the talent and the tenacity to take on whatever challenges lie before him, and he’s not giving up on his D1 dreams.

Fisher said committing to Independence was the culmination of countless nights praying, wishing and hoping for a chance to play at the next level. Independence offered him that opportunity along with a scholarship.

“I always thought I would do something great. I was born to do this. I was made to play football,” Fisher said.

Brown said Fisher has been a dynamic athlete, evidenced by his All District and All State recognitions.

“Cortez has the ability to play football on Sundays. He came in and played as a freshman and just continued to get better. He was sharp academically and did all the things he needed to do to graduate early. He went through a lot, losing his grandmother at the beginning of his senior season, but he stayed strong,” Brown said.

While Fisher proves himself at Eureka, he plans to pursue a college degree in electrical engineering, a field he was exposed to through the St. John STEM Magnet program.