Hugs and tears accompanied words of praise and encouragement during the National Signing Day ceremonies for Killeen ISD student athletes preparing to move on to the world of college sports.

In separate signing ceremonies Wednesday at KISD’s four high schools, 24 seniors put their names to letters of intent representing their plans to attend college and to participate in athletics.

At each school, coaches pointed out that for every student, the moment of signing paperwork represented long years of diligent practice as well as staying focused on academic commitments.

At the first of multiple stops, KISD Executive Director for Athletics Randall Hugg said signing day was a tribute to hard-working students and to supportive educators and families.

“It’s a tribute to their hard work and dedication, in some cases since elementary school,” Hugg said. “They are fortunate and blessed to get to extend their careers.”

At Shoemaker, athletics coordinator Toby Foreman introduced students he said worked tirelessly to overcome obstacles to reach the level of athletic prowess to move on to college sports.

“This is more important than any championship,” Foreman said to an audience of students, educators and athletes’ family members. “They will further their academic and athletic careers.”

Shoemaker signees, all set to play football in college, include James Parker to Sul Ross State, Nathalon Nenei and William Hooper to Northwestern State, Trevion Jackson and Daron Allman to San Angelo State, Cameron Bausley to Fullerton College (CA), Davion Madison to Crowne College (MN) and Ozias Wright to Kilgore Junior College.

At Killeen, athletics coordinator Neil Searcy praised the five athletes signing Wednesday for representing their high school and families with distinction. Position coaches took turns introducing each athlete.

Families joined each student separately at the center of the school gym for each signing.

“They can see that dreams are possible,” Searcy said of the younger athletes seated in the school gym watching their friends sign. “If you want to further your education and athletics it takes dedication.”

One student athlete reminded the athletic coordinator that he told him a year ago that he could be moving on to college athletics himself the following year.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” Searcy said. “This is the reason we get up in the morning to do the job. I love them.”

At Harker Heights, athletics coordinator Jerry Edwards said that, like a parent, he hated to let go of his kids, but was proud to help launch them to new heights.

“This is an awesome time of year when we celebrate the next chapter in these athletes’ career,” he said to a crowd of friends and family members in the school gym near the end of the school day. “You will take what you’ve learned here about character and carry that shield with you because you’ll always be Harker Heights Knights,” Edwards said.

For the Knights and Lady Knights, Sheila Borders signed to play volleyball at Grambling, while teammates Aliyah Lockett and Jendaya Robertson each committed to Temple Junior College and Jaylyn Capito committed to Mountain View College.

In football, Jameel Hodges signed with Texas-Permian Basin and Ja’Quan Tillis committed to Trinity Valley Community College.

Harker Heights soccer players Clarissa Galindo and George Santos signed to play with Southwestern Assemblies of God and Hardin Simmons, respectively.

For Ellison athletic coordinator Trent Gregory, the signing day struck an emotional chord as he prepares to retire from 33 years in education.

“It’s been so special,” he said. “This is my favorite time of the year. It is hard to believe that 33 years has gone by. It is so great to have a small, but positive part in a student’s life.

“My advice for these athletes is to stay focused on academics and everything else will fall in line.”

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