With friends and family members proudly looking on, Spring ISD student-athletes gathered on Wednesday to take part in the annual National Signing Day event. Senior athletes from Westfield, Spring and Dekaney high schools put pen to paper and signed their letters of intent to play for their colleges and universities of choice.
Overall, 25 students from the three schools signed to play football, basketball, softball, baseball, volleyball, or compete in track and field with schools both far away and closer to home, including University of Houston, University of Oklahoma, Boise State University, University of Fort Lauderdale, and Rice University, among others.
Westfield High School
Westfield High School kicked off the first National Signing Day, in which eight student-athletes gathered in the school’s performing arts center to declare their schools of choice in front of a crowd of students, family and community members. Jerry LeDoux, father of Westfield varsity football player Julian LeDoux, stood with pride alongside other family members watching his son commit to playing at West Texas A&M University.
“For me, it’s amazing. It’s one of the things that you hope and dream for your child,” said the elder LeDoux, shortly after the event. “I’m extremely proud of where he started and where he’s at now. I’m excited for his future.”
Julian, who plans on majoring in business and marketing, was recently presented the Best Defensive Back Award at the 2023 Westfield Mustang Football Banquet and ranks academically in the top 15% of Westfield’s Class of 2023.
“Football brings about accountability, discipline – it keeps you focused,” LeDoux said. “It’s been very good for Julian, for his grades and on the field as well. Overall, athletics is a good thing for all students.”
Westfield senior Kierra Merchant, who has committed to play basketball at the University of Houston, is currently a part of the Lady Mustangs girls’ basketball team – ranked undefeated in district play this season, with only three games left.
“I decided to go to UH because of their players [and] their community,” Merchant said. “They’ve been following up on me since I was in the ninth grade. I like the fact that I’m in my city, and that my family and friends can come out to most of my games.”
Although she says she’s unsure whether she’ll choose kinesiology or sports medicine as her concentration in college, Merchant is happy to start her next chapter in her hometown.
“It feels good, a stress relief, to not have to worry about student loans and things like that,” Merchant said. “It takes a lot of pressure off me and my family.”
Westfield had six students sign to play football: Allen Gilmore-Hatter, Tyler Junior College; Preston “PJ” Hatter, Texas State University; Julian LeDoux, West Texas A&M University; Da’John Palomo, Trinity Valley Community College; De’Marion Stamps, Southwestern Assemblies of God University; and Kelbie Thomas, Midwestern State University.
Kierra Merchant, signed to play basketball at the University of Houston, and Andrick Vaglienty has signed on to play baseball at Philander Smith College.
Spring High School
The Spring High School gymnasium was filled with excitement and enthusiasm as over 80 family members, friends, coaches and school staff gathered to celebrate nine student-athletes that will continue their education and athletic careers at the collegiate level.
There were college-themed tables, T-shirts, colorful balloons, and baby photos, even college-themed pastries, and smiling faces lighting up the room. As joyful families took photos of their athletes, there was a special guest in among the crowd, Debbie Townsend, a proud longtime Spring ISD volunteer.
“I have been coming to Spring High football games for 40 years, and I have never had anybody inspire me as much as AJ Williams,” Townsend said. “He fought so hard for every score, every tackle, every game, he is such a great kid.”
Also in attendance was Spring ISD Athletic Director Armando Jacinto, who led the closing remarks during the official signing day ceremony.
“This is a great honor for the athletes and for the families, but also a huge honor for the school and school district,” Jacinto said, “and you as their teammates, classmates and teachers have a big part of this win because you help them be successful on and off the field. Thank you.”
In total, Spring High School had nine students sign letters of intent to attend and compete in collegiate athletics at the following universities. Five students signed to play softball: Kloey Brenner, Alvin College; Ashlynn Carrasco, Southern Arkansas University Tech; Mariah DeBose, Trinity Valley; Bella De Los Santos, Blinn College; and Ella Reyes, Alvin College.
Tyrhan McNeal and AJ Williams signed to play football at McMurry University and University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, respectively.
Allana Archie signed to play volleyball at Houston Christian University, and Cameron Jackson signed for track and field at University of Oklahoma.
Dekaney High School
At Dekaney High School, eight student-athletes signed letters of intent to join a range of college football programs. Head Coach Anthony Williams said the team – which was this year’s Regional Semifinalist and took 2nd place in District – was like a family, and that he was excited to see a number of his seniors signing to play for their schools of choice.
While other commitments will follow later in the semester, Williams said the Dekaney players signing on Wednesday were accepting scholarship offers collectively worth more than $1.2 million.
“We’ve been blessed here,” Williams said before the start of the official signing ceremony. “And that’s not just me. That’s been a collaboration with me, my coaches, and the kids putting in the work.”
Senior Jonah Wilson alone fielded more than 35 collegiate offers, starting with Texas A&M in the spring semester of his sophomore year. Wilson ultimately chose the University of Houston because of the connection he had formed with the program there during his high school years, and because playing there will allow him to represent his hometown and stay close to family.
“It’s a long process, I can say that,” said Wilson, who plans to enroll as a kinesiology major. “You’ve just got to stay patient and really focus on where you are at the moment, and not let that take over your high school career.”
Ty Morris, another senior, is a four-year letterman who played both football and baseball at Dekaney. He signed on a scholarship offer from Rice University, where Morris – currently ranked in the top 10 in his high school class – plans to balance athletics and academics, playing football and majoring in pre-med.
“I feel pretty awesome today,” Morris said. “I’m looking forward to getting a world-class degree. I always wanted to do football together with a good academic program. Rice has all that I want.”
Wilson and Morris both thanked the school’s coaching staff for supporting them and helping them achieve their best.
“They’re always taking care of the kids, day-in and day-out,” Morris said. “They treat you like their own son, and the way that they teach us about character is unbelievable. I’d say we probably have the best brotherhood in the Houston area.”
Coach Williams also singled out four members of his coaching staff who play an especially large role in supporting students throughout the recruitment process: Herbert Frazier, Charlie Bryan, Sterling Finney, and Jermaine Mills.
“When we start coaching you, we’re going to coach you for the rest of your life,” Williams said. “A lot of these kids come back here sometimes. They know that this is home.”
Dekaney had eight students sign letters of intent to play football: Da’Shawn Bradley-Henderson, University of Fort Lauderdale; Demanuel Brown, Boise State University; ReChuuk Hines, Midwestern State University; Brandon Joseph, Midwestern State University; Ty Morris, Rice University; Xavier Rowe, Midwestern State University; Jordan Vaughn, University of Fort Lauderdale; and Jonah Wilson, University of Houston.