RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — National Signing Day is Wednesday, February 1st. On that day, high school student-athletes can sign a National Letter of Intent to accept scholarship money and continue their athletic careers in college.
Central Virginia is full of great football players, and in 2017 the two with the most suitors are Benedictine linebacker Ellis Brooks and Highland Springs offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. Each has dozens of offers from major programs on both coasts and everywhere in between.
Their days are filled with in-school visits from position coaches, home visits from head coaches, and official visits, in which a football program pays for the travel and accommodations of a student-athlete and his or her parents to give them the campus experience. During a recent week, Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh sat at Highland Springs’s gym to watch Becton play basketball, and the following day Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino visited Becton and his parents at their home. Also recently, Brooks spent just one day at school, because that day was sandwiched in between official visits to Louisiana State and Oregon.
“I’m tired,” Brooks said on that day.
As exciting as it may be to be the belle of the ball, it is also stressful. Big-time recruits are highly coveted not just by programs but also by their fans. Often normally sane individuals can do extraordinary things on social media, either expressing their hope the recruit will come to their school or their dismay at his interest in another program.
Brooks tells a story where one male tweeter commented on his physical appearance, saying he was “cute” and could be the “face of the program.” Brooks said he tried to take it as a compliment on his terrific play and not as a come on.
“It’s fun. But it’s also stressful,” Becton said. “You can’t please everyone.”
Both players, who have been friends since early childhood, say they are excited to make a decision, and that it will be a relief. It means a free education and the chance to continue playing a sport they love. It also means they can relax and enjoy the end of their time in high school.