Four area gridiron stars get rewarded for their efforts

Published on February 07, 2014 with No Comments

Four area high school football players saw their countless hours of practice and dedication to a sport pay off with a huge reward on National Signing Day (Wednesday) with a college football scholarship.

Milton High led the day with three signees, while Pace High had one lone senior take the accolades of the day.

What is so unique about each of these four young men is the fact that each one has a special story.

Yet the story did not begin on the football field, as Milton Head Coach Chafin Marsh put it, the work started in the classroom.

“All the dreams and aspirations of these young men go through the classroom,” Marsh said as he spoke of his three Panthers who were waiting for the moment to sign their letters of commitment to each of their respective schools. “A lot goes into getting to this point and the toughest part is having to let go.”

Across Santa Rosa County to the west, Patriots head coach Mickey Lindsey echoed those words of encouragement to the players who hope to one day earn the chance to sign a scholarship on the biggest day across America when it comes to high school seniors and college football.

“It is exciting to know the opportunity that lies ahead of you,” Lindsey said when talking of tight end Shane Crawford. “The mementos on the table are just a small part of what this entire team accomplished and set forth the opportunities ahead.”

Pace’s Shane Crawford signed a national letter of intent on National Signing Day to play football for the University of West Alabama as family and coaches look on.

Milton’s Andre Flakes and Corlis Waitman were the only two D-I signees on Wednesday, while Milton’s Bobby Green and Pace’s Crawford signed to play at the Division II level of college football.

Flakes, who finished his career as a Milton Panther with 3,544 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns, wanted to make an immediate impact at the college level and took the offer of the Troy University Trojans.

“I looked and the possible playing time and the opportunity to play early,” said Flakes, who selected Troy over schools such as the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Duke, Clemson, Cincinnati, Southern Mississippi, and others. “It has been crazy with the phone ringing all the time and getting more than a couple of calls a day.”

As a matter of fact Flakes’ mother, Kimberly Smith, actually took a call from the Troy staff as they were checking to see if Flakes had signed yet just before the 11:30 a.m. event held in the Milton High Auditorium.

“Troy is a good school and offers me several good choices as I look to major in business,” Flakes said. “Another great thing is how I saw the coaches treat the players. There is a real family environment there and I liked that a lot.”

So what could Flakes expect once he arrives in the Wiregrass area of Alabama and dons the Cardinal, Silver, and Black of the Trojans?

“They are looking at me to play the slot receiver, some quarterback in the wildcat, and returning some kicks,” Flakes said of the Trojans who finished 2013 at 6-6. “They said they didn’t let the defensive coaches look at me because they would probably want me to play on that side of the ball as well.”

While Flakes might seemed to have lived at the Milton campus and Panthers’ football program, Waitman is a completely different story.

Waitman was a soccer player who became a kicker and punter for the Panthers.

Does this story sound eerily familiar?

Well after one varsity season as the kicker and punter for the Panthers’, Waitman is getting a chance at South Alabama.

And what is even more interesting is he will not be the first Waitman from Milton to play for the Jaguars in Mobile, Ala.

Waitman’s late father, Jose, was a standout basketball player in Mobile after he graduated from Milton High School from 1983-1986.

“I know my father would have wanted me to go to South Alabama if he was here today,” said Corlis, who averaged over 44 yards a punt and over 80 percent of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks his senior season. “I hope I can make a positive impact at South like my father did in basketball”

Waitman, who was also recruited by Alabama St., Memphis, Maryland, and Middle Tennessee, is looking forward to the competition.

“They want me to come up in May and start working out for the chance to be the punter next season,” Waitman said. “The thing about kicking is you don’t really see the results at practice, but during the games and the season I really surprised myself.

“Today doesn’t feel real, but I am glad I am going. At one time I didn’t feel I was good enough, but the coaches here at Milton had faith in me and worked with me to help me get this opportunity.”

While every player dreams of a Division-I school, there are plenty of opportunities and chances at the D-II level.

With that being said Pace tight end Shane Crawford is ready to go to work for the Tigers of the University of West Alabama this fall.

Crawford, who played tight end and defensive tackle for the Patriots this year, caught 11 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown his senior year.

Now he is a part of head coach Brett Gilliland’s first recruiting class at UWA and headed to Livingston, Ala.

“West Alabama called and asked me to make an official visit,” said Crawford, who took the trip with his head coach and Tiger alum (Lindsey). “He showed me the school and explained some things while we were there.

“I fell in love with the school and the environment and Coach Lindsey is a big inspiration to me as well.”

Crawford is expected to play a big role for the Tigers next season as they look to shore up their offensive line and defensive backfield.

“On offense our biggest need was on the line. We were able to sign several that we are pleased with and excited about,” Gilliland said. “On defense we needed some help in the secondary and believe we were able to get it. We also wanted to go get a couple of good receivers to have some depth there and we are pleased with the players we got.

“This is a really strong class,” he said. “We believe in graduating players and we stress that, but we want them to also reach out to get that diploma with a championship ring on their finger.”

While Crawford is headed to Livingston, Ala., Milton’s Green is headed a little further west to become a Statesman at Delta State in Cleveland, Miss.

“I went on my official visit and felt right at home,” said Green, who also was talked to by Alabama State and Florida A&M. “I enjoyed meeting and talking to the receivers as well as the coaches.

“There is just something special to me on that visit that helped me make my decision.”

Delta State is coming off a 7-3 season under first year coach Todd Cooley as they looked at this 2014 recruiting class to add depth and make the Statesmen more competitive.

“We’re excited about the depth of talent we’ve added to the family today,” Cooley said.  “Our coaches have worked tirelessly to identify and recruit the type of young men that are ready to come in here and help us reach our goal of competing for championships year in and year out.”

More signings are expected in the upcoming days in football, but were not finalized for National Signing Day locally.



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