Althoff’s large group of senior football recruits took their signing party across the river Wednesday as part of a unique event put on by the National Football Foundation’s St. Louis chapter.
All 10 players were joined by friends, family members and Althoff coaches at Norwood Hills Country Club in St. Louis. They also were joined by their fellow senior football recruits from throughout the St. Louis region for an event that promoted and honored their achievements.
Althoff had four Division I recruits among its 10 players signing Wednesday. Among them were athlete C.J. Coldon (Wyoming), running back Jaylon Bester (Miami-Ohio), receiver Edwyn Brown (Eastern Illinois) and linebacker Bryson Strong (Southern Illinois University Carbondale).
“It’s a blessing,” said Coldon, a receiver and defensive back at Althoff. “I’ve been seeing a lot of guys — not just from my school, but other schools — peers and friends that I know, too. It’s great seeing all these guys go off to college and sign to play football and do what they love.”
A large banquet room was full to capacity for the second annual event.
“It is now the largest high school signing breakfast in the country,” said NFF member Dennis Snep, a former football coach at Belleville East and Belleville West who now serves as a quality control coach on the football coaching staff at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s a great way to promote football and promote these young men as they take off for college representing their schools. This is bigger than last year.”
Strong, a two-time all-state selection, finished his Althoff career with 460 tackles and 23 quarterback sacks.
“He’s the leader of this group,” Salukis head coach Nick Hill said. “There’s always one kid who kind of takes the bull by its horns and just spearheads everything now with social media, text and all that kind of stuff.”
Strong is a bit undersized for a linebacker at 5-foot-11, 222 pounds.
“If he was 6-foot, he’d be going to Iowa or something like that,” Hill said. “Iowa’s coaches even told me that. Bryson Strong’s a leader; he’s a winner. When you get to know him, everybody will love him in this building. He’s exactly the type of kid that you want to recruit.”
Brown originally committed to Southeast Missouri State on Sunday, then changed his mind and went with EIU after discussing the move with his parents. Brown may also have an opportunity to play basketball at Eastern.
“It seemed like everybody in my family was more comfortable with Eastern than they were with SEMO,” said Brown, who signed as a defensive back. “There was more of a family environment at Eastern. It just brought everything together.”
Brown knows the whole recruiting process can become emotional.
“It’s overwhelming, actually,” Brown said. “My mom and dad talked to me. They were tossing and turning the night I committed. They just didn’t feel comfortable, and I don’t think I felt comfortable about it, either.”
The 6-5 Brown caught 29 passes for 511 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, adding seven interceptions as a defensive back for the 11-1 Crusaders. He helped his team reach the Class 4A state championship game as a junior and then helped them reach the 4A quarterfinals as a senior.
“You want to make the right choice and he really wasn’t comfortable with his decision, so he talked with his parents and weighed the pros and cons,” Althoff coach Ken Turner said. “As long as he’s happy that’s the No. 1 thing.”
Turner was pleased with the event and the large turnout.
“I’ve been through so many signing days and never coming to an event like this. I think it’s great for the community,” Turner said. “It’s great for our school and for all these young kids signing to have an event like this where they’re all together and can meet each other.”
Turner said this was his largest group of football recruits in his coaching tenure.
“It’s a talented group of seniors we’ve been talking about since they were freshmen,” Turner said. “They put a lot of work in at our school and in our program. It’s exciting to see these guys get an opportunity to go on and play at the college level because they worked so hard.”