Football: Linemen lead Raiders off to college

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Ryan senior defensive tackle J.T. Williams signs a national letter of intent with Southern Mississippi as his mother, Hester Williams, takes a photo Wednesday at the high school.
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Commitment-related tension building over the last few weeks was nowhere to be found around Ryan’s football fieldhouse Wednesday morning.

Ryan added to its long line of high-level defensive line recruits on national signing day when senior defensive end Sekou Clark signed with Vanderbilt and senior defensive tackle J.T. Williams signed with Southern Mississippi.

Clark and Williams headlined a nine-person signing class for the Raiders. Clark and Williams raised the number of Ryan defensive linemen who have signed with Football Bowl Subdivision programs to 13.

Former Ryan head coach and new Denton school district athletic director Joey Florence said he was proud of all the athletes who signed.

“Just the fact that these are going to play at the next level and have the opportunity to get their school paid for is important to me,” Florence said. “I’m proud of those kids. We do have a proud tradition here at Ryan High School, and these kids, they carried on that tradition pretty well.”

Clark had committed to Louisiana-Monroe and was set to take a visit to Boise State last weekend before new Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason convinced Clark to head to Nashville, Tenn.

“I got out there and I loved it,” Clark said. “I loved Nashville, the whole town, the other recruits, I was feeling [it]. I liked the school. I believe in everything that coach Mason was preaching, and my [defensive line coach Vavae Tata]. Vanderbilt’s got a huge future ahead of them.”

Williams saw offers from Missouri and Louisiana Tech fall through, and within the last moments of the signing period, Southern Miss swooped in. The Golden Eagles made an offer to Williams on Monday, and on Tuesday the defensive tackle chose the Conference USA school over Massachusetts and Houston Baptist.

“I feel like that was the best fit,” Williams said. “I could see myself playing there the next four to five years, and I just feel like I’m going to go down there and do some amazing things.”

Fellow defensive lineman Reese Strait signed with Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Other Ryan signees included offensive lineman Tucker Cross (Henderson State), quarterback Preston Compton (Graceland), running back Tyrone Williams (Prairie View A&M), wide receiver Trent Willis (Arkansas-Monticello), defensive back Xavier Pittman (Bethel College) and kicker Marc Orozco (Grambling State).

Wednesday’s signing event was a culmination of many long careers rewarded with opportunities to play at the collegiate level.

“I love these kids, and it’s so good to see them get to this point,” Florence said. “I tell them, and I’ll say this again, the best part for me is when I see them in about five years and see that they graduated again.”

BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.


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