Putting pen to paper: Major football signings in the metro-east

News-DemocratFebruary 5, 2014 

Belleville West football coach Cameron Pettus picks up letters of intent.


Belleville West did not have school Wednesday because of snow, but that didn't stop Maroons football coach Cameron Pettus from driving to several players' homes to pick up their signed letters of intent.

On national signing day, college coaches like to have those documents in hand as early as possible.

Pettus got up early, then drove around collecting them before faxing them in for running back Brian Hill (Wyoming), linebacker Tori Millender (Southern Illinois University Carbondale) and lineman Nick Allen (Tennessee-Martin).

"I wanted to do something because we couldn't do the ceremony today because there was no school," Pettus said. "The (college) coaches were champing at the bit to get them, I was talking to them at 7 in the morning already. They wanted to get them right now."

Other major recruits in the metro-east who signed Wednesday included O'Fallon defensive end Dewayne Hendrix (Tennessee), East St. Louis defensive back Greg Taylor (Missouri), Highland offensive lineman Tanner Farmer (Nebraska), East St. Louis defensive back Treevon Prater (Syracuse), East St. Louis linebacker Kyron Watson (Kansas) and Edwardsville cornerback Craig James (Minnesota).

Hendrix (6-foot-3, 252 pounds) signed his letter of intent to attend Tennessee while surrounded by family.

"It's been a long process," said Hendrix, considered a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, ESPN.com and Scout.com. "It was a final relief for me and my family to actually sign with a school."

Late in his recruiting journey, Hendrix visited Missouri two weeks ago. But rather than changing his original commitment to Tennessee, that only strengthened his resolve to wear Vols orange.

"Mizzou is a good school, but it really made me think more about Tennessee," Hendrix said. "It got tough. But it didn't really get confusing because I knew where I wanted to go, I just wanted to be sure."

"Dewayne is big and athletic," Tennessee associate head coach and defensive line coach Steve Stripling said. "He runs wells and is effective all over the field. He has the tools to be a disruptive edge presence for the defense."

Most colleges are well versed in social media and they highlighted individual recruits by posting stats and highlight packages on Twitter.

College fans also use Twitter to follow recruiting news and Hendrix said his account blew up after signing with the Vols.

"It went crazy, actually," he said. "I ended up getting 300 more followers and a whole bunch of notifications."

Farmer became one of the biggest recruits in Highland school history when he signed with Nebraska as a key member of what is widely considered a talented offensive line group.

Rivals.com had Farmer (6-4, 315) as the fourth-best guard prospect in the country.

"I was very excited to sign and officially become part of the Husker family," said Farmer, an Under Armour All-American tackle who projects as a guard or center at Nebraska. "Once I picked Nebraska that was the end of it for me. I didn't really talk to other schools or anything and if I got their mail, I just threw it away."

Farmer signed his letter in front of his parents, girlfriend and various family members.

"Signing the letter was very big for me because it's official," said Farmer, who also is the defending Class 1A wrestling champ at 275 pounds and is ranked 12th in the nation this season. "It was very exciting."

SIUC coach Dale Lennon was excited to land Millender.

"He's another highly decorated and noteworthy linebacker," Lennon said. "He's a physical presence on the field and has a very aggressive game. He's very athletic."

From Belleville to California

One of the nation's top recruits this year was Southern California signee Adoree' Jackson. A former elite athlete at Belleville East and Central Junior High, Jackson moved to California and watched his recruiting stock soar as a receiver and defensive back.

Jackson (5-10, 182) finished second in the state in the long jump as a freshman at East and also excelled in football and basketball,

He moved to Southern California after his freshman year and has been living with his older sister, Lekisch Williams-Keene. Jackson attends Junipero Serra High, a private school, and was named Mr. Football in California as well as earning All-USA honors by USA Today.

He is considered the top prospect in the state and his long jump prowess has many believing he has a shot at qualifying for the Summer Olympics in 2016.

"Adoree' has always set his own bar," Williams-Keene told ESPN.com. "I knew my brother was destined for something at age 3. He had this discerned spirit about him, like he was going to do something spectacular in life."

Jackson announced his USC college choice live on the ESPNU television network Wednesday. He chose the Trojans over LSU, UCLA and Florida.

Belleville East senior Darreon Reddick played against Jackson in basketball when they were younger and remains friends with him.

"He was always the best athlete on the court, so I knew he was going to be something special," Reddick said. "He always jumped the highest and ran the fastest. He's been to like four of our basketball games this year and whenever he's in town he'll always stop by.

"I'm proud of him."

East football coach Tim Funk said Jackson was a special athlete before even arriving in high school. A broken hand sidelined him for much of his freshman season, but Jackson dressed for the varsity once he returned.

"He was a phenomenal athletes, you could see that right off the bat," Funk said. "Now he's an Olympic caliber long jumper. It's just amazing to think a kid like that ... he could have made us a lot better the last few years. He could have played anywhere for us and would have started both ways for us as a sophomore."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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