The moms and dads on National Signing Day had different duties than those of Razorback recruit Alex Collins.
Instead of running off with signing papers, they prepared refreshments, decorated tables and hung balloons.
There was no suspense about the college commitments here Wednesday.
Coaches and school administrators here used the ceremonial part of signing day to connect with, and inspire a student body, especially in the lower grades, to do the right things, keep up with their academics and drive toward their dreams. They presented the role models at the table in the gym, auditorium and library to illustrate that.
At a signing assembly at Conway Christian’s gym, athletic director and football coach Michael Carter led a prayer for recruits Tanner Stevenson (University of Central Arkansas) and Andrew Dather (Harding University). He then presented his pair of star athletes as examples of character and commitment, and challenged other young people to follow their example.
After the formalities, there was another prayer, then refreshments and photos.
A few minutes later and a few miles away, Greenbrier was hosting a similar reception in its high school library. Seth Peters was formally announcing his commitment to the new football program at Hendrix College.
Mike Harrison and his Creative Sports Network crew were on hand for an interview and a taped it for airing on the network’s cable channels. Speaking before much of the student body, Peters, one of the top quarterbacks in the state, talked on teamwork, commitment, shared success and academics.
On the table was a T-shirt that read, “Hendrix Football: Undefeated since 1961.”
The college is reviving its football program this fall on the NCAA Division III level, which does not allow athletic scholarships.
It provided the perfect forum for Peters and his parents to introduce what D-III football is all about and for the star quarterback who led the Panthers to a conference championship and a 10-0 regular season, to say academic achievement, not athletic achievement, is the top priority for him.
Later that afternoon, Conway High football coach Clint Ashcraft hosted the ceremony for four players (Jeff Anderson, Brannon Kotch, Brandon Cox and Bryton Booher) who signed with four different schools (UCA, Ouachita Baptist, Arkansas State, Arkansas Tech, respectively).
The ceremony before athletes, students, friends and family at James Clark Auditorium gave Ashcraft a highlighted opportunity to note that 17 Wampus Cat football players have received football scholarships the last four years. It gave the coach the forum to continue to preach dedication and hard work can lead to later opportunities.
The fact that 17 players have earned scholarships certainly illustrates the CHS coaching staff is doing a lot of things right.
Almost at the same time the Conway group was signing, UCA coach was going digital for the first time in presenting what may be his best overall recruiting class in the Wingo Hall board room.
A regular theme was players who were either team captains, honor students (or both) and several who were accomplished basketball players and had scholarship opportunities in those sports.
UCA’s success in NCAA Division I FCS, with greater exposure and an expanded footprint, has allowed Conque and his staff to be more selective, both from the athletic and academic end.
A conversation I had earlier in the day with a longtime friend and colleague who is in another state and witnessed the signing ceremony of a UCA recruit related another elements.
“Those stripes on the football field are appealing to athletes nowadays,” he said.
Whether one likes it or not, that field at Estes Stadium is apparently not a one-year, striped wonder.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or email@example.com)