Jeff Hulme could have been in his office, watching film of his upcoming state championship opponent Cy-Fair. Instead, the Midway head football coach was scrambling around, gathering paperwork and organizing photos of four seniors who signed Division I letters of intent.
As “problems” go, it wasn’t exactly the worst in the world.
Four of Midway’s top players made it official on Wednesday, the first day of the new December early college football signing period. Three are bound for Big 12 schools, as quarterback Tanner Mordecai signed with Oklahoma, offensive lineman Hakeem White with Texas Tech and offensive lineman Kaitori Leveston with Kansas State. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ stud defensive tackle Jaxon Player signed with Tulsa, which is coached by former Baylor coordinator Philip Montgomery.
It’s a first-time wrinkle for high school coaches to deal with game preparation and signings in the same week. But, truthfully, Hulme realizes he’s one of the lucky ones.
After all, if you’re worrying about both, that means you’re playing for a state title.
“It’s a great day. It is one of those issues that you wish you weren’t dealing with but you’re glad that you are, because that means that you’re still practicing,” Hulme said. “We knew this (was a possibility) at the end of last year with the guys we had coming back.”
The players enjoyed their moment in the December sun. Mordecai has been committed to the Sooners since June, and he was more than happy to grab a quick shower after practice and change into his cream-colored OU polo shirt for his signing ceremony.
“I fulfilled a dream today by signing to Oklahoma, a Division I school,” said Mordecai, who will join fellow Midway alums Ben Hicks (SMU) and Sam Glaesmann (Rice) as current college QBs next year. “But it’s a great week. I’m signing to a school and also practicing for a state championship, so I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Mordecai has passed for 3,989 yards and 48 touchdowns this season while clicking off another 1,131 yards and 23 TDs on the ground. Yet even the tightest spiral he’s thrown to a Panther teammate might not match the firm connection he has made with Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
“We gelled really well. He’s an offensive genius, so I was really excited to be able to sign with him,” Mordecai said. “I think he’s the ultimate offensive coordinator. He’s extremely smart, extremely intelligent. He knows what he’s doing, obviously. In his first year he’s in the College Football Playoff. I’m very excited, and I can’t wait to be up there with him.”
Two of Mordecai’s top blockers will now move on to rival Big 12 schools, while another two — lineman Daizion Carroll (North Texas) and tight end David Priebe (SMU) — plan to sign in February. Wearing a red hoodie emblazoned with “Guns Up” on the back, the Texas Tech-bound White couldn’t have looked more comfortable and relieved.
“It really couldn’t (get any better),” White said. “I’m ready to go get that ring now. I’ve signed, the only thing I need to worry about is getting that ring. I have no finals. I’m ready for the ring.”
Leveston should be able to put his 6-foot-5, 290-pound frame to good use at K-State. Under Bill Snyder, the Wildcats often prefer to pound the ball between the tackles.
“I get to go up there, go showcase my skills,” Leveston said. “Hopefully I’m going to get to win a Big 12 championship. I keep telling Tanner and Hakeem, we’re going to win Big 12. That’s what I’m planning to do when I get up there.”
Midway’s Player is a 6-0, 285-pound powerhouse who has pushed around opposing offensive linemen on his way to 126 tackles and eight sacks. For him, signing with Tulsa fulfilled a long-ago promise he had made to his mother.
“A dream come true, especially for me and my family,” Player said. “I told my mom, she’s never going to have to pay for college and I lived up to my word, so that’s what I like about it.”
Across town at China Spring, Tyrick James could relate to that sentiment. The playmaking tight end couldn’t prevent his eyes from moistening as he introduced his family members to the crowd that had gathered to watch him sign with Tulane.
“It means a lot,” James said. “A lot to my family, they don’t have to pay for college. And I get to continue my passion with something that I love.”
When James first started playing junior high football at China Spring, he was a self-described “chubby kid” who was installed at offensive tackle. But as he slimmed down and built up muscle, he became a do-it-all touchdown machine. This year, as a hybrid tight end/H-back, James (6-2, 237) made 42 catches for 880 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing 90 times for 497 yards and 13 more scores.
He’s hoping to continue that familiarity with the end zone at Tulane.
“It was a big stressful moment for me at the beginning of the summer, because I told everybody that I was going to commit and then a few things here and there happened,” James said. “Tulane was the people who stayed with me. That’s why I’m here now.”
Around Central Texas
The University of Houston picked up a quartet of Central Texas recruits on Wednesday — Belton defensive end Logan Hall and defensive back Garrison Vaughn, McGregor defensive back Johnathan Phenix and Mart linebacker Zamar Kirven.
Kirven signed his letter of intent on the same day that Mart played for the 2A state title against Refugio. Midway will get its state title shot on Saturday.
“This is the ultimate Christmas present anyone can ask for. I don’t think you could ask for anything better,” Midway’s Leveston said.