Nine Bulldawgs sign to play collegiate football during National Signing Day ceremony
By TJ MAXWELL
National Signing Day is a time for high schools across the country to highlight the success stories of their student-athletes as they continue their education and respective sports at the collegiate level.
The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs celebrated nine such student-athletes at the high school’s Lea Ledger Auditorium on Wednesday.
Highlighting the 2019 class were running back Shontez Simmons (Division I - Army West Point), tight end Trevor Troy (Division II - Angelo State University) and defensive end Jaylan Brown (Division II - Angelo State University). Also signing were quarterback Easton Simpson (Texas Lutheran University), Ezekiel Buchanan (Hardin-Simmons University), Tommy Connell (Howard Payne University), Quinton Lewis (Monterey Peninsula College), Bjkeanu (B.J.) Abraham (Monterey Peninsula College) and Giovanni King (Monterey Peninsula College).
Simmons signed to play football for the NCAA Division I Army Black Knights in the Football Bowl Series (FBS) Independent Division.
“I’m very excited right now,” said Simmons. “It’s incredible how many people came out here just to watch us sign. I’ve never been a part of something like that, seeing that many people sign at once. It was just awesome to see them all getting to go to their different colleges.”
After Simmons rebounded from an injury that plagued his junior season, he had a stellar senior season under new head coach and athletic director Jack Alvarez.
“Sometimes you are going to go down in life – either emotionally or physically,” he said. You just have to get back up and keep moving. Every step that you take is all that matters. As long as you keep moving towards what you want to become, you’ll get it.”
Simmons finished his varsity career with a combined 2,062 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns despite seeing limited action as a junior.
He hopes to make an impact in his new role with the Black Knights.
“They want me to be like a zone back and maybe take some pitches here and there,” he said. “They also want me returning on kickoffs and punts. I’m excited to try these things out and I’m ready for it.”
Best friends Troy and Brown will continue their football careers at NCAA Division II Angelo State University.
A former quarterback, Troy also recovered from an injury before finding his groove as a blocking and catching tight end for the Dawgs and the Rams took notice.
Despite being injured for a good portion of the year, Troy finished third on the team in receptions with 17 for 289 yards and four touchdowns.
“It feels great,” said Troy. “It was an awesome experience to come out here and sign with my brothers.”
It took just one visit to know where he wanted to be.
“I went there and it just felt like home,” he said. “After the visit, I knew that was the school I was going to. That was the one I stuck with through the entire recruiting process. I appreciate everybody else who helped me, but Angelo was home, and I can’t wait to go play.”
It’s even better that he gets to room with his lifelong best friend.
“It’s going to be cool,” he said. “We’re going to be roommates and get to go to the same school. It’s going to be awesome. It’s a dream.”
Brown showed sparks of greatness in his junior season, but really blossomed into the player he is today in his final season under new defensive coordinator Cody McCauley and the Alvarez coaching staff.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little kid. The coaching change helped me because it gave me a chance to restart. I wanted to end my year off great and that’s what happened.”
Sharing the field with his best friend is an added bonus.
‘I grew up with him,” said Brown. “He’s a brother to me. It’s a blessing that we get to go to school and play football together.”
Brown led the team with 76 tackles, 18 tackles for losses and six sacks in the 2018-19 season.
Quarterback Easton Simpson watched from the sidelines last year behind senior quarterback Jaylen Smith before taking the reigns as a senior to lead the team to a 7-4 record and playoff appearance. He will play for the Division III Texas Lutheran Bulldogs.
“I’ve dreamt about this moment for a long time,” said Simpson. “It’s an amazing feeling. They are my brothers and it makes me happier see them succeed than myself, so this was pretty awesome.”
Texas Lutherans academics helped him decide on remaining a Bulldog.
“The coaching staff was fantastic, and their academics was one of the highest in the state,” he said. “My dad always pushed me to go to a school like that.”
Simpson finished the year 129 completions on 220 attempts for 1,799 yards 20 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
Offensive lineman Buchanan will play for the Hardin-Simmons Cowboys.
Buchanan helped the offense compile nearly 5,800 yards of total offense before they were ousted from the playoffs by the eventual state champion Longview Lobos in the first round of the playoffs.
“It feels great,” he said. “I’m glad to be signing to play football. It’s like a dream. It feels amazing.”
Connell also excelled under the new defensive and special teams’ schemes with a team-high four interceptions at the cornerback position and four blocked field goals, including one returned for a touchdown, on special teams.
He will continue his career with the Division III Howard Payne Yellow Jackets.
“It feels unreal to be honest,” said Connell. “I remember freshman year and, now that we’re all signing, it’s unreal.”
Wide receiver Quinton Lewis will continue his football career with the California Community College Athletic Association’s Monterey Peninsula Lobos.
Lewis led the Bulldawgs in receptions with 39 and yardage with 532. He also had seven touchdowns receiving and one passing.
Also going to Monterey is defensive lineman Abraham and linebacker Giovanni King. They helped the Bulldawgs finish the year as the no. 1 statistical defense in the nine-team district.
Cove allowed just 958 yards passing during the regular season, which was more than 300 yards less than the next team Waco Midway (1,269). The Dawgs were fourth in rushing defense with 1,473 yards and were first in overall yardage with 2,431 total yards and average yards per game with 243.1. Cove was also second in interceptions with 11.
Simmons summed it up for all the student athletes when he reflected on his career at Cove.
“I have plenty of memories,” he said. “Just sitting on the bench after a good run or waiting to go into halftime and coming back out. It’s something you don’t really think about until it’s all over. You don’t take the time to think how grateful you should be for being in the position you’re in.”
“I am definitely going to miss the friends I made here, but I’m not going to forget,” he said. “I want to work hard, get to where I want to be, get a college degree, then try to be a professional athlete.”
They also offered advice for their teammates who will going through this process in the near future.
“All I can say to them is stay strong and keep pushing,” said Simmons. Hit those weights and get faster. You may not become as good as your teammate beside you but all that matters is that you stick together.”
“Just put in the hard work,” said Connell. “Nothing comes to you. You have to take it. My advice is to keep your nose to the grindstone, and everything will work out.”
Cove defenders Luis George and Jack Shumaker are expected to make their college announcements soon.