Historic day at Highland Springs shows real meaning of National Signing Day

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond, Virginia is not the football recruiting hotbed that places like South Florida, East Texas, and Southern California have become, but you could have been fooled Wednesday at Highland Springs High School. On a day in which most area schools had at most five students-athletes signing a National Letter of Intent, the Springers marched 22 young men into a gym filled to capacity on one side.

That’s not just 22 young men continuing their football careers. That’s 22 young men going to college. In fact, Head Coach Loren Johnson believes six more Springers will sign letters of intent, meaning 28 of his 31 seniors are moving on to the next level, most with full or partial athletic scholarships, and nearly all with some sort of financial aid.

“Some of them are first generation college students. And it’s amazing to say that in 2017,” Johnson said. “To go to school for free and win a state championship means a lot for me as a football coach.”

The Springers won back to back state championships, so clearly the talent is there, but so are the grades. Virginia Union Head Coach Mark James signed five Springers to his 22-man recruiting class, and he believes he got the cream of the crop.

“The average GPA of a kid from Highland Springs is a 3.2 GPA. So you’re talking about kids that are just not football players. They’re student athletes,” James said. “Their team is loaded of talent, but more than loaded of talent, they’re loaded of character.”

Johnson gives credit to what he calls a “community” approach. According to Highland Springs Director of Activities Michael Bailey, Johnson is more likely to talk about a student-athlete’s home situation or his grades than football.

National Signing Day has gained a bad reputation after years of nationally televised commitments and can’t-miss prospects that miss. Wednesday at Highland Springs, more than a couple Springers broke down in tears at how grateful they were to be continuing their career and their education. More than a couple also said they never thought they’d achieve this.

But all of them did.