Commentary

Signed, sealed and remembered

For a moment, Super Bowl XLIV takes a backseat to signing day memories

Originally Published: February 2, 2010
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- You think they ever forget national signing day? Nuh-uh.

Doesn't matter whether they're rookies or veterans, New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts.

And it doesn't matter if they're on a prelaunch countdown to Super Bowl XLIV. They never, ever forget the day they signed on their first dotted line or, in some cases, the day they were completely ignored by college recruiters.

Signing day memories:

Colts offensive tackle Charlie Johnson
Sherman (Texas) High School | Signed with Oklahoma State University

"It seems like a forever ago.

"I'm not from the biggest town. It's just your average town in north Texas. We don't really put that many guys [on] Division I scholarships.

"It was 7 in the morning and I'm in my coach's office and we have all the local news outlets and all the newspapers. You get the picture of you signing, sending the letter off, doing the interviews. It was just a special moment -- with my family and with my coaching staff. I just remember it being a great day.

"Difficult decision? For me, no. I had one scholarship offer. When you only have one option, it's not that hard. There was no hat thing. It was either Oklahoma State or, I don't know what would have happened."


Saints cornerback Randall Gay
Brusly (La.) High School | Signed with LSU

"We had something at my high school. I invited my family, my mom and dad. Everybody was there. I didn't realize that was Wednesday. That was 10 years ago.

"It was a private thing. Me, my family, some of my teachers.

"It wasn't a difficult decision, no. I didn't want to leave Louisiana. I wasn't going anywhere. It was LSU. I went on a couple of recruiting trips and got homesick. So I said, 'I'm going to LSU.'

"I'd tell [the new signees], 'Get ready to work. Work hard and who knows where it will get you.'"


Colts quarterback Peyton Manning
Isidore Newman School (New Orleans) | Signed with Tennessee

"It's kind of like being drafted in the NFL -- it's the start of something. Obviously when you're in high school, you can choose where to go. In pro ball, you get drafted.

"For me it was exciting going to Tennessee and beginning your college football career."


Colts defensive end Robert Mathis
McNair High School (Atlanta) | Signed with Alabama A&M

"Only one school recruited me -- that was Alabama A&M -- so it was very easy for me.

"I only had one choice, and that was Alabama A&M. I signed at my house, faxed it in, called them and told them, 'Alabama A&M, here I come.'"


Saints safety Roman Harper
Prattville (Ala.) High School | Signed with Alabama

"I was late to my national signing day. I was at home in Prattville, and I came and signed my letter of intent for the University of Alabama. I had my folks there and my aunt.

"It was a good little time. And I didn't do anything else in school the rest of the day."


Colts running back Mike Hart
Onondaga Central High School (Nedrow, N.Y.) | Signed with Michigan

"I just remember signing a piece of paper. I had already committed early. I already knew where I was going. As soon as Michigan offered, I knew I was going to Michigan.

"I more remember the day I committed than the signing day. The signing day was kind of like procedure to make it official. I had the big press conference. I didn't do the hat thing. It was Michigan, so I didn't want to put another hat on the table."


Colts linebacker Gary Brackett
Glassboro (N.J.) High School | Eventually received a scholarship at Rutgers

"I actually was a walk-on. No one recruited me -- that bad, I guess.

"[Signing day is] foreign to me. I don't know what that is."


Saints running back Pierre Thomas
Thornton Fractional South High School (Lansing, Ill.) | Signed with Illinois

"It was unbelievable. I feel the same way right now [at the annual media day], like I'm actually signing to go to college or to play in the Super Bowl. That day is a day I will never forget. It's a day I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life.

"I worked very hard in high school to get to that point. My mother, she always pulled for me. She was there right at my side.

"It was just a wonderful experience to have that signing day at my school, and having my coaches around and my family members around. It was really a blessing."


Colts running back Donald Brown
Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic High School | Signed with Connecticut

"I remember going down to the high school athletic director's office, signing that piece of paper and faxing it up to the guys at UConn. Then I had that burden off me because that was a pretty stressful time, especially when you're down to signing day.

"My parents were there, but that was about it. Then I went back to class and it was a normal day."


Colts linebacker Clint Session
Ely High School (Pompano Beach, Fla.) | Signed with Pittsburgh

"I remember a lot of chaos. Things are going through your heart and your mind. You don't want to make the wrong decision. I can remember sitting in that gym with all my guys from high school.

"It's a tough decision. … I feel for the younger guys. My advice is just to say, 'Follow your heart.'"


Saints fullback Kyle Eckel
Episcopal Academy (Newtown Square, Pa.) | Signed with Navy

"I didn't have anybody offer me a scholarship. Nobody. So it was interesting.

"I was just waiting for an offer. I never really got one until the Naval Academy eventually offered me -- well, they really found me through a family friend who recommended me to them.

"It wasn't a big deal. They sent me the paperwork, and I signed it at my house."


Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers
Decatur (Ala.) High School | Signed with Auburn

"It was one of those days that your mom's excited, your family's excited that you're able to go to college and play for free. It's a huge accomplishment to whoever is making that decision. It shows the hard work that they went through in high school and put in the effort. All those guys signing [Wednesday], they have a chance to have bright futures.

"I signed in my high school field house -- that's where I mailed the papers. But we had other guys sign too. … We all sort of got together and had some friends and family come to the auditorium.

"I had actually made my mind up a month before signing day. I didn't do the hat thing. I wasn't that big of a recruit."


Colts safety Antoine Bethea
Denbigh High School (Newport News, Va.) | Signed with Howard University

"I don't remember nothing. I wasn't heavily recruited coming out of high school. So I don't remember too much of anything."


Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne
John Ehret High School (Marrero, La.) | Signed with the University of Miami

"My signing day was pretty easy going in. It worked to my advantage. It's definitely an experience you're going to want to remember.

"It's a tough day, and you just pray that you make the right decision.

"I didn't do the [hat selection]. I didn't want to do all that. I just wanted to say where I was going and move on."


Saints defensive end Will Smith
Proctor (Utica, N.Y.) High School | Signed with Ohio State

"It wasn't as big as it is today. It was really small. It wasn't a big deal.

"I had it at my house. It wasn't a big deal then. That was almost 10 years ago. Nobody cared then.

"No hats, no nothing. It was, 'OK, you're going here? Cool.'"


Colts safety Melvin Bullitt
Naaman Forest High School (Garland, Texas) | Signed with Texas A&M

"That day was special. Kind of like stepping into a whole new world. You're going from high school kid to a college man. It's time to grow up.

"All those kids out there who are signing, take that moment in, embrace it. It's a blessing, and take advantage of the opportunity.

"I did the whole [hat] thing. I wore a hat. I'd already committed as a junior in high school, so I knew where I was going for almost two years.

"It was just an exciting moment for me to get it out of the way and get it done."


Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney
Bloomfield (Conn.) High School | Signed with Syracuse University
"That's going to be a moment -- national signing day. That's going to change your life. A new environment. Doing some new things. Around new people. It's definitely going to be a big deal for a lot of kids.

"It was an unbelievable moment for me. Being able to sign for Syracuse … . I did the gym thing, family and friends around. It was a big moment."


Saints defensive tackle Remi Ayodele
South Grand Prairie High School (Grand Prairie, Texas) | Signed with Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, transferred to Oklahoma

"For me, it was a big deal. I didn't know if I was going to Purdue and following my brother. I had a couple of guys signing with me.

"I ended up going to junior college first, but I double-signed with Purdue. But it was a wonderful day. I know those guys are excited."


Saints cornerback Jabari Greer
South Side High School (Jackson, Tenn.) | Signed with Tennessee

"That's a special time in a young man's life. You get to reaffirm where you're going to be the next four years of your life. Congratulations, because that is a big accomplishment. Good luck. It is a special time in their lives.

"I committed early. I committed before my junior year. I had a signing at my school. They had the press and everything. I got to put my hat on. … It was nice."


Saints linebacker Scott Fujita
Rio Mesa High School (Oxnard, Calif.) | Eventually earned a scholarship at Cal-Berkeley

"I wasn't recruited by anybody. I wanted to go to school at Cal because Berkeley was always the education I wanted. Someone called me to give me the opportunity to walk on, so I was all in.

"No one in my school or my county was doing [signing day ceremonies]."


Saints wide receiver Lance Moore
Westerville (Ohio) South High School | Signed with Toledo

"I didn't have anywhere to sign. I didn't have a scholarship at that point. The day pretty much was insignificant for me. I just had to tell people that I was walking on at Ohio State.

"[Later,] I finally got some scholarships offers and it was a dream come true.

"But [signing day] was a normal day at school for me."


Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma
Coral Gables (Fla.) High School | Signed with the University of Miami

"National signing day, my memory is that it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

"I remember my dad, my mom, my family being there. I was in my head coach's office. I had one media person covering it. It just felt great."

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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