by Aaron Garcia
In an instant, high school athletes from across the nation realized their dreams of continuing their careers in college when they signed National Letters of Intent to join their respective college programs on National Signing Day, Feb. 2. Seven Marvin Ridge athletes were among that group, including K.J. Brent, who signed to play football at South Carolina; softball player Ashley Christy, who will play at Georgia State; Hunter Hiers, who will join Campbell’s football team; Chad and Nate Mullins, who both will wrestle at Appalachian State; Kole Patterson, who will join Wingate’s soccer team, and Jacqui Spurgeon, who will play volleyball at Appalachian State.
For many, simply signing was a welcome milestone.
“It took a lot off of my shoulders, just to get everything signed and everything settled,” said Patterson, who said he’s dreamed of playing in college for as long as he can remember.
“First off, my cheeks hurt (from smiling),” said Spurgeon. “It’s a relief that it’s finally permanent and it’s in ink and it’s done.”
But making such a commitment isn’t all relief, said Nathan Mullins.
“It makes me proud of what I’ve done and what I’ve accomplished,” said Nathan Mullins, who’s twin brother Chad was home sick during the ceremony. “My hard work has paid off, but it also makes me thrive more because I have to get ready for the next level of competition, so I have to get better and better.”
According to Maverick football coach Scott Chadwick, who called the day “bittersweet” due to the fact that he’s losing two three-year starters in Brent and Hiers, the process has been complicated by the wide-ranging spotlight that recruiting brings.
“It’s added so much to the thole recruiting scene and that certainly puts pressure on the kids,” he said. “They’re worried about their rankings.”
Brent, who chose the Gamecocks over the University of North Carolina, Duke, West Virginia, East Carolina, N.C. State, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Stanford and Illinois committed last spring, which helped control the overwhelming level of attention, at least somewhat.
“Once it started happening it was kind of weird for me, but as the process went on I got used to it,” he said.
For Mavericks athletics director Tony Guylitto, it was impressive to see a wide array of sports represented on signing day.
“I like to give all the credit I can to the coaches and the type of student athletes that we have,” said Guylitto. “I think it’s very indicative of the type of coaches we have and the type of school we have, from the administration down.”