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Football: Area athletes to sign today

Profile image for By Ben Baby / Staff Writer
By Ben Baby / Staff Writer

Over the last couple of years, the routine for the first week of February has been well documented.

Media members flock to high schools in the morning to watch athletes sign the last page of their national letters of the intent, solidifying their choice of college.

Today is the first day athletes in football, field hockey, soccer, track and field, cross country and water polo can sign national letters of intent, binding agreements between institution and individual.

In 2012, the Denton area produced 18 Football Bowl Subdivision signees, including six from Guyer and six from Ryan.

Guyer’s Patrick Morris (TCU), Ellis Jefferson (Arizona State) and John Schilleci (North Texas) and Lake Dallas’ Graysen Schantz (Rice) are the only FBS athletes signing this year.

“It goes in waves,” Guyer coach John Walsh said. “We’ve had it where we’ve had three or four Division I signees, and we’ve had eight Division I signees.”

This year is the first time Ryan coach Joey Florence will not have a player signing with an FBS school. Florence just completed his 13th season at Ryan and last year had one of the nation’s top recruits in Mario Edwards. Edwards signed with Florida State and started two games last season for the Seminoles, including the Orange Bowl.

Ryan senior offensive lineman Matt Griffin will sign with Texas A&M-Commerce, and backup offensive lineman Will Parlett is expected to sign with Northwestern Oklahoma State.

Without any high-level commitments for 2013, the Raiders still tested Cedar Hill in a 14-point Ryan loss in a Class 5A Division I area-round playoff game. Cedar Hill has four FBS commitments.

“If you’ve got a bunch of Division I players, then obviously you should have a more talented football team,” Florence said. “This football team that I coached was by far one of the purest teams I’ve ever coached. We played one of the toughest schedules, and the talent may not have been what it’s been, but we were able to compete at a very high level.”

The class of 2011 produced Oklahoma State quarterback and Guyer alum J.W. Walsh, who is expected to fight for the Cowboys’ starting spot next season. The previous year produced Taylor Bible and Scotty Young, two Parade All-Americans from Guyer and Ryan, respectively.

“A lot of people go years and years and years without one [FBS recruit],” said Ken Purcell, athletic director for the Denton school district. “We’ve been a little bit spoiled in Denton, I think, to be honest. And the quality of the kids we’ve put out has been really tremendous.”

Purcell, John Walsh and Florence agreed on one of the perks of working in Denton, with all three moving to the area at different times but all drawn by the quality athletes.

Purcell said that when he decided to take the job as the DISD athletic director after years of coaching at Allen and Plano, he recalled the names of Don Woods and Carl Garrett.

Woods was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year by The Associated Press in 1974. Garrett was honored as the AFL’s Rookie of the Year in 1969, beating out O.J. Simpson.

John Walsh said he had to face Ryan and Denton when he was the head coach at Brownwood.

“I saw the type of athletes both of these schools were putting on the field, and that was definitely one of the attractions that got me to look at the Guyer job,” Walsh said.

Walsh has one of those talented athletes returning next year, as junior quarterback Jerrod Heard has orally committed to Texas and is considered by many to be one of the top recruits in next year’s class.

Ryan could have its share of signees next year as well, as it boasts a strong defensive line.

But today will be about this year’s seniors inking their names on the bottom line.

“I’ve watched these guys go from the seventh grade — really football camp — all the way through signing day,” Walsh said. “To see it pay off and for them to further their education through football is always exciting for us.”

BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is .