Seven may be traditionally associated as the luckiest number, but the No. 8 was great for the Killeen High School athletic department on Wednesday.
Surrounded by friends, family, classmates and coaches, Lamont Alexander, Matthew Ballard, Garrett Gaskamp, Tyler James, Daniel McCants, Brittany Mitchell, Decara Walters and Devyn Williams made their collegiate choices official during a National Signing Day ceremony in the school’s gym.
“I’m just excited,” Alexander said. “I finally got a chance to go play college ball so there’s a lot of emotion. I’m just glad that all of the hard work I put in from my freshman year until now has paid off and I don’t have to pay for college.”
Alexander, a defensive lineman, signed with Stephen F. Austin while Ballard, a defensive back, committed to Eastern New Mexico University.
Gaskamp, a quarterback, and McCants, a running back, will remain teammates at Tarleton State and Williams, a wide receiver and defensive back, will attend Oklahoma Panhandle State University.
Mitchell and Walters will run track and cross country for West Texas A&M and Texas Southern Universities, respectively.
James will golf at Ottawa (Kansas) University.
Alexander, a second-team all-District 8-5A selection as a senior, selected Stephen F. Austin not only based on the opportunity to play at the NCAA Bowl Subdivision level, but because he was impressed by the school’s pre-med kinesiology program and connected with the professors he met.
“Their main goal is to get you a diploma and football is next,” Alexander said.
Alexander finished the season with 92 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, six sacks, a safety and three fumble recoveries.
Last season, the Lumberjacks finished with a 3-9 record, including a 1-6 Southland Conference mark.
“I expect Lamont, with his body type, to grow into a solid interior defensive lineman,” Stephen F. Austin head football coach Clint Conque said in a statement. “It’s a position where we have some depth currently on our roster, so I expect him to provide some balance and add some depth and experience to our roster.”
Walters committed to Texas Southern’s cross country squad, which finished fifth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference last season.
Gaskamp and McCants both wore purple dress shirts for the signing ceremony to celebrate the color of their new team.
McCants (1,620 yards, 18 TDs) earned unanimous first-team honors after finishing second in the district in rushing for the Kangaroos. He also averaged 30.3 yards per kickoff return and scored a district-best 128 points.
McCants said he was moved by the outpouring of support at the gym Wednesday and looks forward to remaining teammates with Gaskamp.
“I’m glad I get to go to college with a quarterback like him,” McCants said.
Gaskamp threw for 1,985 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
The Gaskamp household will have a good Lone Star Conference rivalry with Garrett at Tarleton State taking some good-natured ribbing from his father David, the Roos offensive coordinator and a former Texas A&M-Commerce football player.
“A&M-Commerce is a big rival of Tarleton so it’s going to be pretty fun and pretty cool,” Garrett Gaskamp said.
Ballard goes from being a teammate of Gaskamp and McCants to being a conference rival after committing to Eastern New Mexico.
Williams signed to play for the Oklahoma Panhandle State Aggies who went 4-7 last season as an NCAA Division II independent.
He said all it took was a visit to the Goodwell, Okla., campus for him to solidify the decision.
“It wasn’t a hard decision to make after going down there and seeing the people that I was going to be signing my life away to for the next four years,” Williams said. “I like Oklahoma Panhandle State.”
Mitchell will run for a Lady Buffs program that went to the NCAA Division II national championships for the second straight year and a track team that finished second in the LSC in 2013.
“I’m just excited,” Mitchell said. “I’m ready to go to college and I’m just glad that I signed to West Texas A&M.”
James committed to a Braves program that is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Roo senior had three top-five finishes in Southern Texas Section PGA play in 2013.