Shelbie Letzer is moving on, but she has business to attend to before leaving.
One of the most decorated athletes in Copperas Cove girls soccer history, Letzer officially committed to play for Incarnate Word during a joint signing ceremony Wednesday morning at Bulldawg Gymnasium. With a majority of her senior season ahead of her, however, the standout is not satisfied knowing a collegiate career awaits.
“I’ll always know that there is somewhere else to go but, when I look back, I want to remember these four years being special,” she said. “And I want this year to be extremely special.”
Letzer became the soccer program’s first player in nearly 20 years to sign a letter of intent to play for a Division I school, but putting pen to paper only reinforces the decision she made public more than six months ago.
“It is such a relief,” she said. “No matter what happens, whether I get an injury or something, I’m going to go there, and that is where I want to be.”
The signing occurred on the heels of Tuesday’s four-goal, two-assist performance at Shoemaker, elevating her to first in school history with 42 assists and second in career goals with 48.
Joining her in the National Signing Day festivities was teammate Lauren Heck, who committed to Bacone College (Okla.) and a trio of players from the Bulldawgs football team, including all-state first team selection Phillip Baptiste, who signed with Trinity Valley Community College.
“When I went down there, they made me feel at home,” he said of his visit to the Athens campus. “I knew that was the place for me when I went. They made me feel like family and, once I was there, they didn’t make me feel like an outsider. They just brought me in like we’ve known each other forever.”
Baptiste capped his high school career with an impressive season, catching 113 passes for 1,556 yards and 17 touchdowns.
“Those are running back numbers,” Copperas Cove offensive coordinator Tracy Welch said. “That’s what happens when you hand the ball off to a running back multiple times in a game.”
J.D. Post and Hunter McVeigh also signed letters of intent, committing to Texas Lutheran and Mary Hardin-Baylor, respectively.
McVeigh lined up in multiple positions throughout his senior season, playing tight end, full back, running back and receiver, in addition to punting and returning kicks.
“I can’t wait to get over there and compete to earn a spot and be part of that winning tradition,” McVeigh said of joining the Crusaders.
While McVeigh is eager to begin his collegiate career, defensive back Post, who returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns last season, is already looking forward to returning one day.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time with the Bulldawgs,” he said. “This is a place I’ve always wanted to be and, if I can, I really want to come back to Copperas Cove and put something into this community.”
All the athletes must prepare themselves for a jump in the overall level of competition, and perhaps nobody is more accustom to the rigors of pushing themselves to get better than Heck, who is in the process of recovering from a fractured ankle and a high-ankle sprain suffered prior to the start of the season.
Although the recovery process is arduous both mentally and physically, Heck is confident she can get back to full speed.
“It took me two months to get back, but I’m steadily getting better,” she said. “You kind of feel like you are not useful on the team anymore, but you know your teammates are always going to be there for you. Still, you have to work harder to get your place back on the team, so it is hard.”
In the end, however, Heck knows it will be worth it. “I am definitely going to enjoy the season,” she said.