Five football hopefuls get signing day blessings

Published on February 06, 2013 with No Comments

Every high school football player dreams of getting to sign a letter of intent to play college football on National Signing Day.

Wednesday five young men from Santa Rosa County got to be a part of the epic annual event.

Milton High School saw Isaiah Jones, Dejon Funderburke, and DeMichael McQueen all sign scholarships, while cross county rival Pace High School had two – Ryan Santoso and Blake Ladoucer.

Jones, who committed last summer to Florida State, let the excitement of the day keep him up last night.

“I barely slept last night,” said Jones who finished 2012 with 38 receptions for 602 yards and four touchdowns along with 28 carries for 270 and three touchdowns. “The coaches were calling and making sure I had everything in order.”

So what made the receiver being wooed by the likes of Auburn, Louisville, and South Carolina to pick the Garnet and Gold?

“When I went on my visit I left like I was at home,” Jones said. “Tallahassee is just two and a half hours down the road and the people there are the same like the people here in Milton.

“Milton has been through some down years and is on its way back up and I feel the same can be said for Florida State and how their program is moving forward.”

Florida State is coming off a 12-2 season which included the ACC Overall title and a 31-10 win in the Orange Bowl over Northern Illinois on Jan. 1

While Jones had his mind set, there was some wavering in the camp of fellow standout receiver Dejon Funderburke.

Funderburke, who committed to South Alabama his junior year, was being courted by several teams late in the process including schools like Western Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Iowa St.

“It was kind of hard as I was making some visits and hearing what the coaches had to say and what they thought would be the best for me,” said Funderburke who recorded 28 catches for 453 yards and five touchdowns along with 21 rushed for an addition two touchdowns and 125 yards. “I had to think long and hard last night about things and almost decided to sign with Western Kentucky.

“I thought long and hard about it and was glad for this day to come and knew in my heart I can do what I need to do at South Alabama. The biggest thing is their coaching staff has been there since the program began and I like the stability in the program as well as the family atmosphere.”

South Alabama is coming off a 2-11 record in 2012, which happened to be their probation year at Division the Division-I level and will start play in the Sun Belt Conference in 2013.

Atmosphere was a big word for DeMichael McQueen, who committed to play for the Alabama State Hornets on Wednesday.

“It was real close that this didn’t happen,” said McQueen who recorded 160 tackles at linebacker for the Panthers with 39 of those for a loss along with two sacks. “It is a blessing to be signing today and getting to go to a school where I like the coaches, players, and the whole environment.”

McQueen has come a long way in just a year after a freak auto accident his junior season let to a broken hip which he recovered from and eventually returned to anchor the Panthers’ defensive unit.

Alabama State is coming off a 7-5 season in 2012 and finished atop the eastern division of the SWAC conference standings at 7-2

The feeling of home was a constant theme as the Panthers cubs were preparing to leave the fold with graduation ahead later on in 2013.

“I remember when DeMichael and Isaiah were born,” said Milton Head Coach Chafan Marsh. “Now I watching them sign to play football in college at a point in their lives like I did when I played at Milton.

“I couldn’t be happier for them and their families and for the way Dejon came in and embraced becoming a part of the Milton football family.”

In some families there are several firsts and Milton’s cross county rival Pace High School definitely had plenty of those with Ryan Santoso signing with Minnesota and Blake Ladoucer signing with Johns Hopkins.

Santoso, who is only the second All-American in Pace history joining the likes of Thad Busby, enjoyed an outstanding senior year and led the state of Florida in field goals hitting 14-17 with his longest being 42 yards.

“I am excited about becoming a part of the Minnesota football program,” said Santoso who had 46 of 48 of his kickoffs end up as touchbacks. “I feel honored to get the chance to play football, but more importantly get a quality education.”

The 6-4, 265 pound kicker garnered a great deal of attention by colleges, but Patriots head coach Mickey Lindsey told those who called he was a kicker and not to talk to him about playing offensive line.

Santoso converted from the game of soccer to football at 15 years of age as a sophomore at Pace.

“Making the switch was a big mental adjustment,” said Santoso, who is expected to start as a freshman for the Golden Gophers. “I had never played any sport in front of that many people.

“There were a lot of adjustments to be made and a totally different mental approach.”

Minnesota is coming off a 6-7 season which included a 34-31 loss to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

While Santoso is looking to Minnesota, Ladoucer is going to answer the call of the Blue Jays at Johns Hopkins.

The two year starting lineman got the call after he was noticed by the Jays’ staff at a Princeton football camp.

“I have always wanted to play football in the Ivy League,” Ladoucer said. “Today is a dream come true for me.”

The dream did include some fancy suitors calling with the likes of Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Duke and Tufts in trying to attract the senior offensive lineman who has played every position in two seasons.

“The coaches indicated to me they want me to start at left tackle right away,” Ladoucer said. “I can’t wait for August so I can get there and get started.”

Johns Hopkins finished the season at 12-2 and ranked No. 12 in the AFCA Division III Coaches Poll to end 2012.


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