Jared Lankford: Signed, sealed, time to deliver

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

For college sports fans, last week was the most important non-season week of the year.

The week was highlighted with thousands of athletes declaring their college intentions with the signing of national letters of intent and various other documents binding them to the schools of their choice.

Cassvilleís Devin Phelps was one of 12 area athletes to have a signing ceremony to allow friends,†family†and teammates to witness his moment of achievement.

I applaud not just Phelps, but each and every athlete who inks the dotted line to go to college.†I always make college signings a priority and attempt to attend every one that I am invited to cover.

First, the athletes did the work on the field, in the weight room and classroom to get noticed by higher education schools. Secondly, according to the NCAA, only about 2 percent of seniors are awarded some form of athletic scholarship. Just to be included in the national signing day puts our athletes in an elite class.

Thirdly, as Cassville Coach Lance Parnell said about Phelps, it shows that with hard work and the system the coaches have built, college is an attainable goal. The hope is that younger athletes will follow in the same footsteps.

With that said, the work that

the athletes have put into their high school careers means very little once they get to the college realm. They may be signed and sealed, but now it is time for the student-athlete to deliver.

Take Missouri Southern State University, with which Phelps signed. This year, the Lions signed 57 athletes to their football team alone and carry a roster of more than 120 athletes. Cassville†had a gridiron roster that only numbered in the 60s this season.†

MSSU has been attempting to sign more athletes over the past two seasons ó 41 and 42, respectively ó and Head Coach Denver Johnson said he expects to still sign more football players before the summer workout season to make sure they field the most competitive team possible.

Athletes need to be aware that just because a school signed them doesnít mean they have guaranteed them any playing time ó that has to be earned.

As one college position coach said, it is his job to go out every year and find players better than the ones they have on the roster. Johnson and his staff know that there will be several defections from the 57, and even current roster members. Some will quit, others will get hurt, transfer or canít make the grades. Still, there will be those who find that life gets in the way, or they just want to focus on academics.

In my time as sports editor, Iíve covered nearly 60 college signings and can only recall six that graduated playing at the school that signed them out of high school.†

Athletes need to understand that their teammates are there to also earn playing time as well. Donít rest on the accomplishment of just signing.

The game is the easiest part, the devil is in the details and practice. Once signed, only those who deliver will reach the field.

Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He can be reached at sports@cassville-democrat.com, or 417-847-2610.

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