GCCC football's Curran, Jackson, Solomon sign; others committed
By ADAM HOLT
Keith Curran had a tired hand Wednesday morning. He'd recently taken a long physics final. And there was a lot of writing involved in signing his National Letter of Intent to play football at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas.
Curran, along with fellow Garden City Community College football teammates Deilouse Jackson and Kitray Solomon, took care of the paperwork to sign with NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision schools Wednesday morning. Jackson signed with the University of Tennessee-Martin, while Solomon inked with Southern Illinois.
"It feels like a lot of stress was relieved off my chest, now that the recruiting process is over with," Curran said. "Now I'm just looking forward to next season and spring ball at Lamar."
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Curran, who played defensive end this season after moving from linebacker, will enroll at Lamar in January. The former Garden City High School standout chose Lamar over Fort Hays State, Emporia State, Southwest Baptist (Mo.) and Missouri S&T.
It was always a dream of Curran's to play Division I football. And it didn't hurt that two of his cousins play sports at the school. Brian Curran is a 6-2 guard on the basketball team, and defensive lineman Adam Curran is transferring in from Cisco Junior College (Texas.)
GCCC head coach Jeff Tatum commended Curran for dealing with the position change this past season. Curran will move back to linebacker for the Cardinals, who play a 3-4 defense. Tatum said he had no doubt that the willingness to move to defensive end was seen as a positive in recruiters' eyes.
"The thing I'm proudest of Keith, we asked him to change positions," Tatum said. "He did it without any reservation. You're always hoping you can reward people that are very unselfish, and that's a very unselfish act. Especially in today's society; it's all about me. I think that's one of the things that will make Keith successful, not only on the field, (but) in life."
Solomon, a 6-foot-3, 240-pounder, was the other starting end for the Busters. He chose Southern Illinois after having contact with Memphis, Texas State and Division II Midwestern State (Texas).
Two of the Salukis' top defensive ends are leaving for the NFL, so Solomon thinks he has a good shot to earn a starting spot in spring ball.
"With me coming in with the experience I have, I think I can get the starting job, and get the job done," he said.
Jackson, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound linebacker, was committed to Midwestern State, but got some extra exposure when the Busters won the Mississippi Bowl. Tennessee-Martin showed interest late, and Jackson jumped on the chance to sign with a Division I program.
"Plus, it's closer to home," said Jackson, a Warner Robins, Ga., native. "Eight hours from my hometown. My family gets to come and watch, kids get to come watch, that's very important to me. Family is important."
Curran, Jackson and Solomon all went through a disappointing 2011 season, Tatum's first as GCCC head coach. Garden City went 2-7, and to rebound from that with a 7-4 bowl-champion campaign, and sign with FCS programs meant a lot to them all.
"My first year out here, when we went 2-7, I thought to myself, 'Man, I wonder, do I want to play football?" Solomon said. "I fell out of love with the game because of that upset we had. But this year, we turned it around, we went 7-4, we won the Mississippi Bowl. I guess my spirit just came back alive. I'm into football again. I love the game."
"Both of those guys could have very easily have said, 'Hey, why do I want to stay at Garden City? Coach Tatum talked about winning, and we went 2-7.'" Tatum said. "But they took it as a challenge, that we're gonna turn this program around."
A number of other Busters also have committed to playing at four-year schools, and a few others are still waiting to make decisions.
Offensive linemen Dillon Salmans and Devin Ritter committed to Presbyterian College (S.C.), a Division I FCS program. Left tackle Darryl Williams has been committed to Marshall (W. Va.) for a while. Fellow offensive lineman Tyler White plans on playing at Newberry College (S.C.), a Division II program, but will finish the spring semester at GCCC.
Linebacker Alex Hemberger is walking on at Northwestern Oklahoma State, which is in its first year of Division II membership. Second-team All-KJCCC fullback Adam Weber and first-team All-KJCCC punter Rilee Spresser are walking on at Kansas State. Wide receiver Rod Coleman committed to Kansas on Friday.
Second-team NJCAA All-American quarterback Nick Marshall has yet to decide where he will go. He has offers from Indiana, Arkansas State, Baylor, Texas Tech and Troy, as well as Kansas State, according to ESPN. Marshall is unlikely to head to Manhattan, as the Wildcats signed Iowa Western Community College quarterback Jake Waters recently. North Carolina State is also rumored to have interest.
Defensive lineman Frank Boenzi, running back Jamal Tyler, cornerbacks Riyahd Jones and Quintavious Harrow are all also likely to make decisions after Christmas. Tatum said cornerback Ernest Butts likely will sign with Arkansas Tech.
Tatum added that wide receiver Raul Silva and safety Matt Esquibel may also end up signing somewhere.
The Busters could see as many as 19 players sign to continue playing college football, after just eight did so following the 2011 season. And if Silva and Esquibel sign, they would make nine Kansas-native Busters to do so, a point of pride for Tatum.
"The thing is, everybody talks about the way you win the Jayhawk Conference is with in-state players," he said. "I don't think we had an in-state guy last year sign. This year, we're having eight or 10 who are signing and going on. Which reaffirms the fact that you do win the conference with in-state football players."