Seven Cove student-athletes participate in National Signing Day festivities
By TJ MAXWELL
National signing day is a time to celebrate the athletic accomplishments of the student-athlete but, more importantly, it is a springboard for their future.
Seven Copperas Cove student-athletes boarded that launchpad during annual National Signing Day festivities Wednesday morning at Cove High’s Lea Ledger Auditorium. Football players Jerome Gaillard (Air Force Academy), Jahmeel Rice (University of Louisiana-Monroe), Micah Cox (University of Texas-Permian Basin), Aaron Shanahan (Minnesota State Community and Technical College), Ethan Swanner (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology), Zachary Holye (Southwest Assemblies of God Univesity) and softball player Angelica Montanez (Luna Community College) will continue their education and athletic careers at the next level.
“This is an opportunity to celebrate these young folks as they continue their journeys,” said Copperas Cove athletic director and head football coach Jack Alvarez during the ceremony. “I want to challenge these folks. I know their hearts are in their sports, competing and finding some playing time, but don’t forget what your main focus is – to come back with a degree and be ready to lead this country. You guys are our future and we’re counting on you.”
Gaillard had the opportunity to sign during the December signing period but wanted to share this experience with his brothers.
“It feels great. It’s a real honor and a blessing to further my education and my athletic pursuits,” he said. “I was supposed to sign a couple months ago, but I told coach I wanted to sign with my brothers because that’s how deep of a brotherhood we have, and I wanted to share this with them.”
He will be following in his family’s footsteps in the military service at the Division I Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
“It is a service academy,” he added. “With my family’s background in the military, I think it will be a great fit for me and have a lot of benefits in the end.”
Rice is just excited to get to continue his education playing the game he loves.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “Ever since I was little, I’ve dreamt about this moment. All the hard work and days I’ve put in to get here… it feels really good.”
His size and speed attracted the scouts of the University of Louisiana-Monroe, but his character sealed the deal.
“They liked that I’m a good, hardworking kid, I’m coachable and I’ll doing anything they ask with no backtalking.”
Cox was also glad to share this moment with the guys he fought in the trenches with.
“This is pretty cool,” he said. “It’s the last time we all get to be together.
“I’m very blessed. I’m just taking it all in and cherishing the moment.”
The UTPB staff liked Cox’s hard running style and adaptability.
“They like how I’m a downhill back and get straight to it,” he said. “They also like that I’m versatile being able to go out to the receiver position.”
New adventures inspired Shanahan to pursue his collegiate career on the other side of the country.
“It means a lot,” Shanahan said of his opportunity. “I’m leaving everything I know behind. I’ve lived in Copperas Cove my entire life. I think this will be a great experience and a great opportunity to play football and also continue my education. I just want to thank everybody that help me pursue my path, be a better individual, and a better young man.”
Sharing the stage with his teammates was bittersweet for the Minnesota-bound lineman.
“It’s a hard moment,” he said. “These guys are my family. We pretty much lived together for weeks ad work hard together and play football.”
For Swanner, the student part of the student-athlete was vital. Although he wanted to continue his football career, academics was in the forefront of his mind.
“It really came down to being a student first and having the side part of playing football,” he said. “Some people want to play football then be a student. I want to get the best education I can while still being able to play the game I love.”
Hoyle is just thankful to get an opportunity to play at the next level.
“They gave me an offer and I’m not real nit-picky about things,” he said. “I just want to go play, experience new things and I’m just excited to have someone want me. That meant a lot to me.”
Sharing this moment with his football brothers was special as well.
“It’s really exciting. I’ve been waiting four years to get up her and get this great pen. It’s cool getting to see all my peers get up here and sign because I made it to varsity my freshman with Jerome and Jahmeel. We’ve come a long way and it really made me happy to sign with all of them.”
Montanez had the benefit of signing her letter of intent to Luna Community College in Las Vegas before her senior season, which takes some pressure off her shoulders.
“It means a lot because I get to further my education and continue to play the sport that I love,” she said. “It’s a lot better to know that I don’t necessarily have to prove myself, I just have to continue bettering myself.”
Head softball coach Bryan Waller believes Montanez’s team-first attitude will help her along the way.
“She’s willing to do whatever it takes to help her team succeed,” he said. It’s a blessing to coach athletes like her because she’ll run through a brick wall for you and give every ounce of energy she has. She’s a good example for others to follow. I am extremely proud to have coached her and I’m extremely proud of her achievements and future success.”