Football: Staying and going

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David Minton/DRC
Guyer safety John Schilleci signs to play for the University of North Texas Mean Green during Guyer High School signing day, Wednesday, February 6, 2013, in Denton, TX.
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Wildcats to play in Denton, Fort Worth, Tempe

When Guyer right tackle Patrick Morris went to TCU for a junior day event last year, it immediately felt like home.

On Wednesday, Morris solidified his college future when he signed a national letter of intent to play football at TCU as part of Guyer’s national signing day festivities that saw 17 athletes sign letters, including 10 members of Guyer’s Class 4A Division I state championship football team.

After Morris committed to the Horned Frogs in April, offers began to pour in from schools such as Texas, but Morris paid them no mind.

“I didn’t pay attention,” Morris said. “I was set on TCU. TCU is where I wanted to be. When I first got there, it was a different atmosphere than every other school I’d been to. Everybody knew everybody, and everybody had been there a long time.

“It was just a different feel. Everything was set in stone. That’s what I liked about it. I didn’t want to think about anywhere else.”

Morris was one of three Guyer players to sign letters of intent to Football Bowl Subdivision programs, joining wide receiver Ellis Jefferson (Arizona State) and safety John Schilleci (North Texas).

“You always kind of measure your freshman class when they come in, and this was not a strong freshman class,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “I think they were .500, and we were worried about them. … To have 10 guys go play college football — if you would’ve told me that when they were freshmen, I would’ve laughed at you.”

Morris, 6-3 and 288 pounds, made Guyer history by becoming the first player to start in two state finals — in 2010 and 2012 — and setting numerous strength records, including a 385-pound power clean that can be seen on YouTube.

He finished his senior season as a second-team Associated Press all-state selection after compiling 44 knockdown blocks and not allowing a sack. In three years as a starter, he allowed just one sack.

“The funny thing about Patrick was he didn’t play football in middle school. He was a tennis player,” Walsh said. “For him to get to where he is now is phenomenal. He’s special in his strength numbers and also in his mentality of being a hard-nosed football player.”

Morris also took on a leadership role for the Wildcats, along with seniors such as Schilleci and Jefferson.

Jefferson, a 6-4, 200-pound wideout, looks the part of a big-time FBS receiver. But because of constant Guyer blowouts throughout district play and the Wildcats’ success running the football, it wasn’t until the postseason when Jefferson began to show how effective he can be.

Jefferson had just 26 catches for 311 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season, but he became the Wildcats’ go-to guy in the postseason and made several clutch plays on conversion downs. None was bigger than a fourth-and-4 catch to keep Guyer’s game-winning drive against Tyler John Tyler alive in the state semifinals.

“I knew when it was time to make big plays I needed to be there for the team,” said Jefferson, who committed to the Sun Devils over the summer, spurning offers from schools including Mississippi State and Michigan State. “Being a senior, I knew I had to step it up a big notch from district to the playoffs. I knew I needed to be more of a leader, and that’s what I did.”

In Guyer’s six postseason games, Jefferson caught 28 balls for 585 yards and six touchdowns, capped by a two-touchdown, 176-yard performance in the state championship win over Georgetown.

Jefferson’s size and ability to go up and catch anything could give him an opportunity to play as a true freshman for the Sun Devils, but Walsh said Jefferson’s best is yet to come and his ceiling is unknown.

“He’s still developing,” Walsh said. “He’s so long and so big that he’s still learning his body. I think his college career will go that way too. They want to play him his freshman year. I hope they redshirt him and he continues to develop. I think when he graduates he’ll be a big-time guy, and there will be a lot of schools that wonder why they didn’t go after him out of high school.”

Jefferson, however, is ready to step on the field and make an impact immediately in Tempe, Ariz.

“I know I have to go in there and work my way up and show the coaches I have the ability to do that and be a true freshman who plays,” Jefferson said. “I’m working real hard right now, too. I think I’ll be ready for it.”

Schilleci made a bit of Guyer history by becoming the first Wildcat to stay home and play college football in Denton, as the two-year starter in the secondary signed with UNT and third-year coach Dan McCarney.

Not many Denton products have played for the Mean Green, but Schilleci said he hopes he can be a part of a new trend, considering the fertility of the Denton area in producing top-notch talent.

One of the last DISD products to letter with North Texas was Denton graduate Raifu Durodoyi from 2005-07.

“I really hope it does start a trend,” said Schilleci, who chose UNT over Washington State. “I really believe UNT will pick up their program and become a bowl program and play in bowls every year. Hopefully it keeps going and we keep getting better recruits every year.”

Schilleci proved to be a versatile player for Guyer, starting at cornerback as a junior and at strong safety as a senior. In 2012, he finished with 111 tackles, eight pass breakups, one forced fumble and a safety.

“He’s still developing as a football player, but what he has going for him is he already has Division I strength numbers and he has Division I speed,” Walsh said. “He’s played corner, safety and special teams and can be used in several facets. I think once they get him on campus they’ll figure out where he fits in their defense and get him there. He’s a hard worker and he dreams big, so I think he’ll have a chance to help those guys out.”

Walsh was happy with Schilleci’s decision for a bit of a selfish reason — the opportunity to make a quick trip from the Guyer fieldhouse to watch one of his former players perform.

“Coach McCarney has really got it going on out there,” Walsh said. “Their staff is doing a good job in the city of Denton before they go out of it. We’d love to have more go there because we can game-plan, drive five miles and go watch our boys play Division I football. I’m excited for John, and I’m excited for North Texas getting some Denton guys.”

ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is .

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