Long: Signing Day primer

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Signing day is a special day. It’s a dream come true for many area athletes that will ink letters of intent to schools of their choice. It’s a culmination of blood, sweat, tears and hard work that young athletes come to realize Wednesday.

“Other than graduation, signing day is the biggest moment of a young man’s high school career,” Phillips head coach Troy McAllister said.

Phillips took home the Class 4A state title for football this season, a year after McAllister watched his first two Division I athletes sign LOI: Speedster Dewayne Collins, now at Northern Iowa and defensive standout Jamal Brown, now playing at Illinois State. In 2010, the program dreamed of things like Division I signees and state titles. Now they’ve got both.

“It’s a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice,” McAllister said. “Signing day also marks the next step in an athletes’ life journey.”

The Wildcats were the first Public League team to win a state title in football and their pool of prospects just keeps getting stronger. This year, senior defensive lineman Amir Watts becomes the first athlete to head to a power five program. He will sign with Pittsburgh.

“Each of the young men in our program analyzed the options they had and made decisions that were best for their futures academically, athletically, and socially,” McAllister said. “Seeing their growth and maturity as young men throughout the process has been rewarding as a coach. The life lessons that we teach as a school and coaching staff are being learned and applied in a real world setting.”

This year, like most, wasn’t without drama approaching signing day. Watts became one of the most coveted prospects in the area and he remained uncommitted until just weeks before signing day.

Watts originally committed to Western Michigan, but re-opened the process in July and received a flurry of offers from all around the county. He wasn’t the only area prospect that ended up making a change to his commitment after 2016 rolled around. Illinois Gatorade player of the year Sam Brodner of Glenbard West, originally committed to Vanderbilt but after rushing for 1,917 yards this season and accounting for 47 total touchdowns he opened his recruitment back up to find the perfect fit. That ended up being Wisconsin.

“Committing is a great feeling and it can’t be beat, but learning about all the schools on the visits was cool as well,” Brodner said.

According to Rivals.com, the highest-rated area prospects to sign on Wednesday are four Michigan State-bound four-star players: Hinsdale South defensive lineman Josh King, Lake Park defensive lineman Mike Panasiuk, Evanston defensive lineman Naquan Jones, and Fremd defensive back Kenney Lyke.

Other four-star players expected to sign their letters of intent Wednesday include Oklahoma offensive lineman commit Erik Swenson of Downers Grove South, Notre Dame signee and Nazareth defensive back Julian Love, Phillips defensive lineman Amir Watts who is committed to Pittsburgh and Carmel Catholic offensive lineman Sean Foster who will play his college ball at Iowa State.

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