By JUSTIN RAINS
The biggest class to sign National Letters of Intent since the breakthrough class of 2007 put pen to paper Wednesday at Palestine High School.
The Wildcats will send four players to the next level, and celebrated National Signing Day with a ceremony in the new Palestine High School library.
Along with being Palestine’s biggest class in more than five years, it’s the biggest class ever assembled by PHS athletic director Lance Angel, who gave credit to the players, their families and their teachers for helping them reach these heights.
“Obviously, these guys earned it, and I think as a team you’ve got to have a successful program for colleges to notice,” Angel said. “In large part to these guys and the senior class before them and the senior class coming up, we’ve been able to have some success.”
He also praised defensive coordinator Ty Robinson, who he called the program’s recruiting coordinator. Angel said Robinson tirelessly worked to promote Palestine players to coaches from various colleges.
It paid off as four — Paul Barksdale, Jadarrius Beasley, Ivory Brown and Walter Sheridan — all signed with junior colleges to continue their careers.
Barksdale and Sheridan will both travel up Hwy. 19 to play at Trinity Valley Community College, while Beasley will head to Yuma, Ariz., and play at Arizona Western and Brown will play at Tyler Junior College.
Also signing Tuesday was Thomas Jones, who earned an athletic training scholarship to New Mexico Junior College for his work with the Palestine training staff.
PAUL BARKSDALE, TVCC
In his own words, Barksdale just “loves to play football.”
He’ll be doing it for at least two more years after signing with TVCC.
“I mean, it’s just a blessing to be able to play college football,” he said. “I’m going to keep trying my hardest and my best.”
Barksdale was a do-it-all athlete for Palestine the past two seasons, and should continue that in Athens, joining a TVCC squad that was ranked nationally early in 2012 before ending the season on a rough-note.
Barksdale recalled receiving his offer to play at TVCC, calling it “a special feeling.”
JADARRIUS BEASLEY, ARIZ. WESTERN
The trip out to Yuma, Ariz., for Jadarrius Beasley will be one that a Wildcat has made before.
Beasley follows in the footsteps of former PHS star Sam Wren, who parlayed his three years in Yuma into two more years of college football at Oklahoma State.
That factored into his decision, Beasley said.
“It’s huge,” he said. “I do want to play at a bigger school (after Arizona Western).”
Overall, the reigning Dogwood Circle Player of the Year said he was excited to have the process behind him, and ready to move forward in his career.
“It’s overwhelming. Everything that I’ve wanted is here or will be here pretty soon,” he said. “All I can do now is sit back and get ready.”
IVORY BROWN, TJC
When Brown hits the campus in Tyler, he’ll do so as a legacy of sorts.
Brown’s father, former Palestine star Ivory Lee Brown, played his first two years at TJC before moving on to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and then to the NFL.
“It’s pretty cool, pretty fun,” Brown said. “I want to try and be as good or be even better. Whatever God has in store for me, I’ll do.”
Brown was an first team all-state corner in his senior season, and joins a TJC program that finished 5-5 in 2012.
He’s one of more than 40 recruits slated to head for the Tyler campus, including from programs like John Tyler, Euless Trinity and Jacksonville.
“I’m excited to play this year,” he said. “I’m happy and glad, and I just give all the glory to God and let him keep leading the way.”
WALTER SHERIDAN, TVCC
Up to a week ago, Sheridan was headed to Arkadelphia, Ark., to play for Henderson State University, a Division II school.
But in the last week, Sheridan had a change a heart, one that had him decide to stay a bit closer to home.
“Henderson State offered me a pretty good deal, but at TVCC I’ll have a better chance (to play) and have to pay less money,” Sheridan said. “It was so far away and my mom is down here and she loves to be able to watch me play.”
Sheridan said he doesn’t plan on stopping at TVCC, and wants to continue his career at a four-year school when he’s done in Athens.
He joins a TVCC squad light on the defensive line, and could make an immediate impact for the Cardinals.
“I’m excited. I’m glad I’m moving on to the next level and hopefully I can move on after that to a bigger level,” he said. “I’m proud of myself and glad that all of my coaches helped me through it.”
Sports Editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com