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February 7, 2013

BLOG: The quieter side of National Signing Day

CHICKASHA — There are two versions of National Signing Day.

One version is on ESPN. It's on Rivals. It's on the websites and front pages of major newspapers.

That's where fans look all day long to see if a member of the ESPN 300 or Rivals 150 has faxed a letter of intent to their school. Where 17- and 18-year-old kids take the spotlight (and some of them abuse it).

There are great stories that come from national recruiting. Tales of kids who worked their whole lives to play Division I football, kids who made families proud by following in fathers' footsteps.

There are also sad stories, like kids who tattoo one school on their arm and end up decommitting, recommitting and decommitting again before ending up at a different school altogether.

Stories of a mother who attempted to steal her son's letter of intent because she didn't want him to leave home.

National Signing Day is important to many kids and their families, and rightfully so. It's unfortunate how much of a circus the recruiting process has become, though.

The second version of National Signing Day was on display in Grady County on Wednesday.

That morning, I was in the Blanchard High School gym to see three football players sign with Division II and NAIA schools. There were no camera crews, unless you count the proud parents recording on handhelds or with cell phones.

Later in the afternoon, I was in the Chickasha High School library, where two Chickasha soccer players signed with Division II schools.

Many of the same elements define the signings of nationally-known players and those of local stars.

While I don't hold it against the players, coaches and families who celebrate signing day on ESPN, there's something refreshing about seeing a young athlete achieve a dream in a humble manner, not showing out for the world to see.

Some of the students I watched sign on Wednesday didn't even want the spotlight, although they were only in the presence of classmates, teachers and coaches. They were happy about their accomplishment, but didn't seem to be begging for attention.

Big-time athletics is only going to get bigger, from high school to the pros. But, I worry about what happens to kids who are made celebrities before they graduate high school. Humility goes a long way, but few kids know how to stay humble when everyone in the country knows their name.

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