|Five Wildcats sign national letters of intent|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Feb. 2, 2005 - Five Sulphur Springs Wildcats, including a top 100 national recruit, made it official Wednesday morning that they would be playing football in college as they signed national letters of intent.
The most high-profile was free safety Keenan Clayton, rated by rivals.com as third-best safety prospect in the country and No. 74 overall, who fulfilled his verbal commitment by signing with Oklahoma University.
Alongside Clayton, wide receiver Keelan Green signed with Northwest Missouri University, defensive end Tremayne Jones committed to Southeastern Oklahoma State University, wide receiver Rolaundo Wright signed with Arkansas Tech, and offensive lineman Chris Berry inked with Trinity Valley Community College.
"I'm proud of all of those guys to be able to further their education and play football at the next level. It's exciting for this program," said SSHS head coach Brad Turner. "It's nice for a kid to be able to go to college with it paid for. Another Division I signee is another feather in the cap of this program, which has a long list of great players."
Clayton is the third Division I player in the last two years, joining Jonathan Lindley (SMU) and Jordan Jones (Northwestern (LA) State). Other high-profile Division I Wildcats in the last decade include Damione Lewis (Miami), Kwaesi Palmer (Florida State), Tyreo Harrison (Notre Dame) and Caleb Miller (Arkansas).
Clayton was offered scholarships by 11 of the Big 12 teams and dozens of colleges nationally, but he verbally committed to Oklahoma in the summer and stayed true to his word.
"Nobody made me rethink it," Clayton said. "Arkansas was the school that tried to make me change my mind the most. But, I knew after I committed there that it was pretty solid. I liked the program, I like to win, and it's close to home. Any game my dad can't be there personally to watch, he can see it on TV."
He has several shoe boxes of letters from colleges, and has fielded hundreds of phone calls, but Clayton said he has made the most of the recruiting process.
"It's fun, but it's something you have to get used to," he said. "It's fun and it's a hassle because you get tired of people calling all the time, from recruiters to rivals.com and people like that. It's just constantly people calling everyday.
"But, you just have to enjoy it because it's all part of the process."
Sulphur Springs had six players sign last year on National Signing Day, and followed it up with five this season. Two more, Keidric Duffey and Patrick Radney, could sign later.
Coach Turner said players who want to go on to college have the opportunity, even if it's not always at a Division I program. Green, Jones and Wright are all going to Division II universities, while Berry signed with a two-year program.
"To have five on signing day is a special thing," Turner said. "I'm proud of every one of those guys."
Green will join former teammate Kendall Wright at Northwest Missouri, where head coach Mel Tjeerdsma said he expects both of them to excel on the football field, track and classroom. Green was an honorable mention All-State kick returner and finished fourth in the 100-meters at the state meet last spring. His scholarship is for track and football.
"We're very excited to have Keelan sign," Tjeerdsma said. "I think he'll be a young man who can contribute in two sports. We've had seven football athletes who have been All-American in track, so we just don't give lip-service to our players doing two sports.
"I was impressed with his maturity and discipline."
Wright will take a pedigree to Arkansas Tech that includes being a Second-Team All-State receiver after catching 69 passes for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He owns all the school's career receiving records. At 6-4, 195, he is also an All-District basketball player.
Jones thought about joining Wright at Arkansas Tech, but changed his commitment to Southeastern Oklahoma, where he will join former teammate cornerback Trey Hall. Jones played defensive end, quarterback, running back and receiver in his three years on varsity, but is projected as a linebacker in college.
Berry was a First Team All-State selection at offensive tackle, emerging from anonymity after spending his junior year on JV. At 6-2, 350, he could be an instant contributor for Trinity Valley.