Football inks 5 on National Signing Day, announces 4 other players joining team in spring

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 at 6:51 PM

On Feb. 7, potential college athletes throughout the nation participated in National Signing Day.

The day was created to prevent National Letters of Intent — letters athletes sign to commit to a college and formally end the recruiting process — from being signed early and to ensure that all colleges were getting the same amount of time to recruit.

Throughout the years, National Signing Day has become quite the event in collegiate sports, now more than ever thanks to social media. Many times, athletes’ decisions are televised with local news crews there to report what school they choose.

This year, nine additions to Edinboro University’s football team were announced on National Signing Day. Of them, four were college transfer students who began attending Edinboro this semester, one college transfer student who will attend in the fall, and four high school players who will join Edinboro in the fall after they graduate.

Football Head Coach Wayne Bradford said the school is most successful at bringing a sense of community to new recruits every year.

“I think in my 20 years at Edinboro, people choose Edinboro because of the people here,” Bradford said. “The buildings don’t talk to you. They don’t ask you how you’re feeling. They don’t ask you how your day’s been. We’ve got some tremendous people here, so first off it’s the people.”

Kahlil Jackson II, one of Edinboro’s new football recruits, credited the school’s coaches with making him feel that he would be cared about in their program. Jackson’s senior year season at Upper St. Clair High School was cut short by an injury in his first game, but Edinboro did not stop recruitment.

“I got hurt at the beginning of senior year — I only played one game, and I was still talking to [Edinboro’s] coaches and they were still really confident in me, even when other coaches kind of stopped talking to me after that,” Jackson said. “So that was one of the big selling points.”

Bradford also said that Jackson’s unfortunate injury during his senior year gave Edinboro an opportunity to continue to recruit the young wide receiver, whereas the competition to sign Jackson might have been greater had he been given the opportunity to play for the whole season.

Still, Jackson said he originally did not intend to sign with Edinboro, but that Bradford’s program convinced him with time that the school was the right place for him.

“[When] they first offered me, I wasn’t taking it very seriously,” Jackson said, “but then as I went to more of their games and started talking with their coaches, I really started liking it just because of how much it seemed they cared about me and wanted to help develop me and use me in the program.”

Like Jackson, Victor Hudson, who signed with Edinboro in 2013 as part of National Signing Day, also said he had to choose between different offers when deciding to come to the Fighting Scots.

“It was not easy choosing Edinboro. I had to weigh a lot of pros and cons when deciding which school I should go to,” Hudson explained. 

Most schools will hold a ceremony for the athletes who sign National Letters of Intent.

Jon Long, another of Edinboro football’s recruits, coming out of Forest Hills High School, said that his school held a ceremony for him and another athlete on Friday because they did not have classes on Feb. 7. Jackson said five athletes at his school were recognized and celebrated with their parents and friends present.

Jackson and Long will join Branson Smith, a cornerback from McKeesport Area High School, and Brentwood High School’s offensive lineman Tanner Wells as football freshmen this upcoming year at Edinboro.

Hudson said that while signing day was exciting for him because the local media was there to cover the event, he was happy to also get to celebrate it with other students from his school.

“I was signing with three other athletes, so it was not all about me,” Hudson said. “I shared the stage with three other tremendous athletes.” 

While some signing ceremonies are full of suspense and drama, most of Edinboro’s signings are not surprises. Bradford said the school tries to recruit players early, hoping to get them to commit to going to Edinboro, so that National Signing Day is just a formality. All of this year’s signees were committed to Edinboro before National Signing Day.

“Signing day is just kind of the calm after the storm because you know those guys are committed,” Bradford said.

It’s no surprise that many of Edinboro’s signees say Edinboro feels like the right place for them, as Bradford said they begin their recruiting process by identifying which potential players will love the university and town.

“It takes a special person to love Edinboro,” he said. “We are a gritty, blue-collar, over-achieving bunch. I mean, we are what we are. We are a middle-class program that works for everything we get, and we go out and try to recruit guys from that same kind of socioeconomic model.”

Long was one of the players who Bradford’s staff identified early as someone they wanted to sign and would probably love the school.

“Once we committed with Edinboro, we decided that there wasn’t going to be another university that gave us the same feel of home away from home, and no coaching staff could come close to how the coaches from Edinboro treated us throughout the process,” said Long, who added that his family canceled visits to other schools because of how confident they were that Edinboro was the right choice for him.

Long was a workhorse for Forest Hills, scoring 10 touchdowns as a wide receiver with five rushing touchdowns while also serving as a defensive back and punter during his senior year.

Hudson still believes going to Edinboro was the right choice for him, as well (Hudson is currently a graduate assistant in the provost’s office). 

“My decision to go to Edinboro has been the best decision I have made in my life,” Hudson stated. “I was awarded All-American status my senior year along with being named a team captain, which is one of the best honors I have ever received.” 

Aside from focusing on players they feel will fall in love with Edinboro, Bradford said his team also focuses on finding athletes who take their education seriously.

“We want to recruit smart guys that want to be coached, that are fast learners, that can play right away, that go to class, that we can retain, that we can be proud of off the field. That’s very important to me,” said Bradford, who was announced as the official head coach this offseason after serving as the interim head coach last season.

Hudson is an example of the kind of education-focused athletes the school likes recruiting. He explained that he earned two degrees in his four years at Edinboro, and is currently working on his master’s in educational leadership.

Long is another example, as he plans on earning his Bachelor of Science in nursing while attending the school.

“The main goal that I have for the next four years is getting my BSN degree, because at the end of the day, that’s why I’m going to college,” said Long, who was identified at Edinboro’s prospect camp last May and was heavily recruited ever since.

Edinboro also had unique situations with two other signings, quarterback Levi Becker and defensive lineman Zach Sley, who were recruited by Edinboro last year but signed to other universities. After they both redshirted their freshmen years, they asked for their releases so they could come to Edinboro.

“I think the compliment from a young man who chooses to go elsewhere and then comes back is that you did a great job recruiting him the first time, and when they told you no, you were supportive,” Bradford said of the two players, who both transferred to Edinboro in time to attend the spring semester.

He said that Becker, who is originally from Erie, wanted to go to college away from home, but later decided that his first choice, Ohio Dominican University, was not the right one for him. Bradford also said that Sley chose University at Buffalo over Edinboro in order to experience a Division I football program, but eventually decided that Edinboro, a Division II football program, would be a better fit.

“[In] my experience recruiting, if you treat people great, and you’re honest with them, and you’re open with them, and you talk to them about your opportunities, and they feel another place is better for them, there’s no reason to be vindictive,” Bradford said. “If you do it the right way and you cultivate the relationship, and you end it the right way at that particular time, they’ll reward you by coming back.”

Edinboro also signed two Lackawanna Community College teammates, defensive linemen Myles Turner and Joseph Wilkins-Jones. Turner joined Edinboro this semester and Wilkins-Jones will begin attending in the fall after he graduates from Lackawanna this spring. 

On Feb. 7, potential college athletes throughout the nation participated in National Signing Day.

The day was created to prevent National Letters of Intent — letters athletes sign to commit to a college and formally end the recruiting process — from being signed early and to ensure that all colleges were getting the same amount of time to recruit.

Throughout the years, National Signing Day has become quite the event in collegiate sports, now more than ever thanks to social media. Many times, athletes’ decisions are televised with local news crews there to report what school they choose.

This year, nine additions to Edinboro University’s football team were announced on National Signing Day. Of them, four were college transfer students who began attending Edinboro this semester, one college transfer student who will attend in the fall, and four high school players who will join Edinboro in the fall after they graduate.

Football Head Coach Wayne Bradford said the school is most successful at bringing a sense of community to new recruits every year.

“I think in my 20 years at Edinboro, people choose Edinboro because of the people here,” Bradford said. “The buildings don’t talk to you. They don’t ask you how you’re feeling. They don’t ask you how your day’s been. We’ve got some tremendous people here, so first off it’s the people.”

Kahlil Jackson II, one of Edinboro’s new football recruits, credited the school’s coaches with making him feel that he would be cared about in their program. Jackson’s senior year season at Upper St. Clair High School was cut short by an injury in his first game, but Edinboro did not stop recruitment.

“I got hurt at the beginning of senior year — I only played one game, and I was still talking to [Edinboro’s] coaches and they were still really confident in me, even when other coaches kind of stopped talking to me after that,” Jackson said. “So that was one of the big selling points.”

Bradford also said that Jackson’s unfortunate injury during his senior year gave Edinboro an opportunity to continue to recruit the young wide receiver, whereas the competition to sign Jackson might have been greater had he been given the opportunity to play for the whole season.

Still, Jackson said he originally did not intend to sign with Edinboro, but that Bradford’s program convinced him with time that the school was the right place for him.

“[When] they first offered me, I wasn’t taking it very seriously,” Jackson said, “but then as I went to more of their games and started talking with their coaches, I really started liking it just because of how much it seemed they cared about me and wanted to help develop me and use me in the program.”

Like Jackson, Victor Hudson, who signed with Edinboro in 2013 as part of National Signing Day, also said he had to choose between different offers when deciding to come to the Fighting Scots.

“It was not easy choosing Edinboro. I had to weigh a lot of pros and cons when deciding which school I should go to,” Hudson explained. 

Most schools will hold a ceremony for the athletes who sign National Letters of Intent.

Jon Long, another of Edinboro football’s recruits, coming out of Forest Hills High School, said that his school held a ceremony for him and another athlete on Friday because they did not have classes on Feb. 7. Jackson said five athletes at his school were recognized and celebrated with their parents and friends present.

Jackson and Long will join Branson Smith, a cornerback from McKeesport Area High School, and Brentwood High School’s offensive lineman Tanner Wells as football freshmen this upcoming year at Edinboro.

Hudson said that while signing day was exciting for him because the local media was there to cover the event, he was happy to also get to celebrate it with other students from his school.

“I was signing with three other athletes, so it was not all about me,” Hudson said. “I shared the stage with three other tremendous athletes.” 

While some signing ceremonies are full of suspense and drama, most of Edinboro’s signings are not surprises. Bradford said the school tries to recruit players early, hoping to get them to commit to going to Edinboro, so that National Signing Day is just a formality. All of this year’s signees were committed to Edinboro before National Signing Day.

“Signing day is just kind of the calm after the storm because you know those guys are committed,” Bradford said.

It’s no surprise that many of Edinboro’s signees say Edinboro feels like the right place for them, as Bradford said they begin their recruiting process by identifying which potential players will love the university and town.

“It takes a special person to love Edinboro,” he said. “We are a gritty, blue-collar, over-achieving bunch. I mean, we are what we are. We are a middle-class program that works for everything we get, and we go out and try to recruit guys from that same kind of socioeconomic model.”

Long was one of the players who Bradford’s staff identified early as someone they wanted to sign and would probably love the school.

“Once we committed with Edinboro, we decided that there wasn’t going to be another university that gave us the same feel of home away from home, and no coaching staff could come close to how the coaches from Edinboro treated us throughout the process,” said Long, who added that his family canceled visits to other schools because of how confident they were that Edinboro was the right choice for him.

Long was a workhorse for Forest Hills, scoring 10 touchdowns as a wide receiver with five rushing touchdowns while also serving as a defensive back and punter during his senior year.

Hudson still believes going to Edinboro was the right choice for him, as well (Hudson is currently a graduate assistant in the provost’s office). 

“My decision to go to Edinboro has been the best decision I have made in my life,” Hudson stated. “I was awarded All-American status my senior year along with being named a team captain, which is one of the best honors I have ever received.” 

Aside from focusing on players they feel will fall in love with Edinboro, Bradford said his team also focuses on finding athletes who take their education seriously.

“We want to recruit smart guys that want to be coached, that are fast learners, that can play right away, that go to class, that we can retain, that we can be proud of off the field. That’s very important to me,” said Bradford, who was announced as the official head coach this offseason after serving as the interim head coach last season.

Hudson is an example of the kind of education-focused athletes the school likes recruiting. He explained that he earned two degrees in his four years at Edinboro, and is currently working on his master’s in educational leadership.

Long is another example, as he plans on earning his Bachelor of Science in nursing while attending the school.

“The main goal that I have for the next four years is getting my BSN degree, because at the end of the day, that’s why I’m going to college,” said Long, who was identified at Edinboro’s prospect camp last May and was heavily recruited ever since.

Edinboro also had unique situations with two other signings, quarterback Levi Becker and defensive lineman Zach Sley, who were recruited by Edinboro last year but signed to other universities. After they both redshirted their freshmen years, they asked for their releases so they could come to Edinboro.

“I think the compliment from a young man who chooses to go elsewhere and then comes back is that you did a great job recruiting him the first time, and when they told you no, you were supportive,” Bradford said of the two players, who both transferred to Edinboro in time to attend the spring semester.

He said that Becker, who is originally from Erie, wanted to go to college away from home, but later decided that his first choice, Ohio Dominican University, was not the right one for him. Bradford also said that Sley chose University at Buffalo over Edinboro in order to experience a Division I football program, but eventually decided that Edinboro, a Division II football program, would be a better fit.

“[In] my experience recruiting, if you treat people great, and you’re honest with them, and you’re open with them, and you talk to them about your opportunities, and they feel another place is better for them, there’s no reason to be vindictive,” Bradford said. “If you do it the right way and you cultivate the relationship, and you end it the right way at that particular time, they’ll reward you by coming back.”

Edinboro also signed two Lackawanna Community College teammates, defensive linemen Myles Turner and Joseph Wilkins-Jones. Turner joined Edinboro this semester and Wilkins-Jones will begin attending in the fall after he graduates from Lackawanna this spring. 

Christopher Rosato Jr. & Madi Gross can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: football

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