COPPERAS COVE — The Bulldawgs football team had five players sign national letters of intent to play at the collegiate level on Wednesday morning.
The Copperas Cove gym was filled with the friends and family of Juan Jimenez, Zane Stephens, Joshua “Zaye” Pettit, Cade Garner-Stewart and Myles Alexander.
“These kids work hard and have earned everything they’ve gotten, nothing was given to them,” defensive coordinator Reb Brock said. “I’m proud of them.”
Jimenez signed with Abilene Christian and knew that he was meant to play for the Wildcats in the spring.
“After the spring game, the coach let me go through the facility and look at everything,” he said, noting that he wasn’t initially given an offer.
After checking out the football program following that game, “That’s when I was like, yeah, this is where I need to go.”
Stephens won’t be too far from his Cove teammate as he signed to play for McMurry, another school in Abilene. The decision was easy for him after he toured the campus because the town reminded him of Copperas Cove.
“I just really liked how small the campus was,” he said, “like the small-town, home feel.”
After offering Pettit the opportunity to battle for a starting position as a freshman, he knew that he wanted to play for Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth.
“It was a dream that I’ve been working for a long time,” Pettit said, “and actually getting the chance to play is a big deal.”
The Rams just completed their first football season after a 75-year hiatus.
Oklahoma Panhandle State will have two Bulldawgs playing for it next year as both Garner-Smith and Alexander sat side-by-side to sign their letters of intent.
“It’s a good school, a good opportunity to keep playing football at the next level,” Garner-Smith said. “I felt even better going with one of my best friends, Myles.”
Alexander agreed, adding, “Going up there with your best friend makes the process easier.”
But it was the visit to the campus in Goodwell that really drew him in.
“The coaches already knew my name, they had everything set up for me. All the athletes were very welcoming and kind.
“We’re all just ready to go out there and play football.”
With all five guys sitting in front of the crowd at the signing table, Brock took the opportunity to share the achievements of each athlete.
Brock also pointed out that all five of them played multiple sports, pointing out that in the NFL draft this year 29 of the 32 taken in the first round were all multisport athletes.
“We push that here,” he added, “most of them competed in two, three sports.
“But they’re also all-around great students. They make good grades to qualify to go to the collegiate level.”
Alexander and Pettit are involved in DECA, a business organization that aims to help young leaders in marketing and business, and made it to the international competition the last two years.
Brock also surprised Pettit and Jimenez, sharing with the audience that both athletes were named 2018 All-American Strength and Conditioning Athlete of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
Only one athlete can be nominated per sport, but Pettit was nominated and selected for track and field, Jimenez was selected for football.
The chance to get an education and play a sport he loves is motivation for Garner-Stewart.
“It means a lot because not everybody gets that opportunity.”