By Monty Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE The day that nearly every high school football player looks forward to, National Letter of Intent signing day, arrived Wednesday and six Copperas Cove Bulldawgs inked their names on the paper as family and friends looked on.
Tim Atchison, Donald Buckram, Sterling Lewis, James Porter, Alphonso Powell and Juan Martinez are taking their game to the next level.
Heavily recruited, Atchison headlined the signings with his commitment to attend the university an hour north of Copperas Cove Baylor University.
Atchison led the Dawg secondary in interceptions, tackles and scored three defensive touchdowns . His accolades include District 13-5A Defensive Most Valuable Player, first-team Associated Press All-State Defensive Back and second-team Texas Sports Writers Association All-State Defensive Back.
The future Bear safety chose the local school as opposed to others that recruited him due to the proximity of the campus to Copperas Cove.
"I have always wanted to play in the Big 12 Conference and wanted to stay close to home," Atchison said. "I also chose the school because coach Bill Bradley (All-Pro safety) told me that with my attributes, I could get to the next level, get where I wanted to be."
Buckram joined Atchison in the Division-I ranks by signing a letter to play with the University of Texas-El Paso.
Buckram led the Dawgs this season with 1,581 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns, which tied him with Vontez Duff for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season. For his efforts, Buckram was awarded with First-Team All-District 13-5A running back and Third-Team All-State running back.
The computer science major chose the West Texas university for its continued support of its football team, similar to Copperas Cove.
"Everything around town and in the restaurants was about UTEP," Buckram said. "Mike Price has turned the program around and made it go in the right direction."
A third member of the Cove team that made school history by playing in the state quarterfinals for the first time, cornerback Alphonso Powell, signed with another Division I school, New Mexico State, where he will join former Cove teammates Roberto Davis and Matt Schoonover. Powell received First-team All District 13-5A utility player honors.
Powell caught 11 passes for 326 yards and five touchdowns last season and had four interceptions, returning one for a score.
The culinary arts major said he chose NMSU because it gave him an opportunity to play immediately and also had a strong coaching staff.
"I chose New Mexico State University because the defensive coordinator was a terrific coach and has four Super Bowl rings," Powell said. "I love to play football, the stadium was nice and the town was peaceful."
The leader of the Bulldawg defense, Sterling Lewis, also got in on the festivities as he signed with Blinn College. Lewis, who played injured last season, was named a first-team All District 13-5A linebacker.
Lewis chose the smaller junior college because of the close-knit feeling that he received. The kinesiology or computer science major is hoping for a shot to play at a bigger school.
"Brenham is a small football town, just like Copperas Cove and I liked it," Lewis said. "I felt good about the school and the opportunity that it had to offer me."
Porter and Martinez have already begun their college lives at Stephen F. Austin and Navarro College respectively.
Porter, who was a two-time (2004-2005) All-District 13-5A defensive end, finished the season with 111 tackles (13 tackles for a loss), 6.5 sacks, four quarterback pressures, 10 quarterback hits and one pass breakup.
Martinez, a first-team All-District 13-5A offensive lineman, helped pave the way for the Bulldawgs to score 512 points in their memorable season.
Having the experience of a few weeks in college, Porter offered up some advice to his fellow signees.
"College is much harder than high school. Lots to do and watch," he said.
Contact Monty Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org