High school seniors are used to writing.
On Feb. 4, though, a number of student-athletes did some writing that will change their lives.
“It feels good,” said Austin Yeloushan, a senior at Sunlake High School. “Finally, I’m committed and ready to go play somewhere.” Yeloushan was one of thousands of athletes around the country who participated in National Signing Day, the first day that a high school football player can sign a binding letter of intent with a member school of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Yeloushan accepted an offer to attend Jacksonville University, where he’ll also play on defense for the Dolphins. In addition to the football opportunity, he was impressed with the school’s academic offerings and its location. He plans to study business.
He’s also working out several times a day and adding in a lot of running in order to get ready to play football at the collegiate level. Although he had a stellar high school career, Yeloushan knows that the level of competition is tougher in college, and he wants to be prepared.
“I feel like everyone that’s really good from their high school goes to college. So it’s just going to be like a big all-star game,” he said.
Jaye Miner, a linebacker from Wiregrass Ranch High School, feels the same way.
“In college it’s like an all-star team every game,” he said. “I know I can’t take anything easy. Everyone’s going to be bigger, stronger, faster.” Miner received 14 offers to play football at the next level, and chose Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on National Signing Day. He plans to study photography, sports medicine or marine biology in the classroom, and learn from his more experienced teammates on the football field.
He might be getting some early experience himself when the Owls’ season starts. Due to a lack of linebacker depth at FAU, Miner said he has a good chance of starting games early in his career.
If he’s in the starting lineup when the Owls play Florida International University on Oct. 31, he’ll face off against a former teammate’s new school. Mark Hutchinson, a Wiregrass Ranch wide receiver, sat next to Miner on Feb. 4 and signed his own papers to play at the next level. He chose FIU and will attend on a full scholarship.
Not bad for a kid who was cut from his seventh-grade football team.
“It was my first year. I was scrawny. I was a skinny little boy,” Hutchinson recalled. “So I had to put in a lot of work, a lot of effort and focus. Because I knew this was something I wanted. I wanted to be an athlete in high school.”
Now that he’s completed a standout athletic career in high school, Hutchinson knows he’ll have something to prove when he enters college as a freshman. But working his way up is nothing new for Hutchinson. He started his freshman year on the junior varsity team before earning a promotion to varsity. He’s focusing on adding strength in the off-season to be prepared when they call his number.
Miner and Hutchinson are good friends and have been playing together for years. And even before they were seriously thinking about Division I college football and making big life decisions, this is a moment they considered.
“In Mark’s room right now, he has a chalkboard wall. It says ‘D-1 bound.’ We wrote that when we were in seventh grade,” Miner said.
Friends and family were in attendance at National Signing Day to congratulate the athletes, coaches praised their abilities, and the schools served cake to help celebrate the event. And while they’re proud of their athletes and have confidence in them at the next level, those athletes are leaving big shoes to fill on their football teams. When the new season comes around, the coaches will have to replace their talented athletes who have moved on from Friday night games to playing on Saturdays.
“You miss all your seniors. You really do,” said Sunlake coach Bill Browning at Yeloushan’s signing event. “And he’s been really successful here, so we’ll miss him.”
Published February 11, 2015