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Seven members of the state champion Collins football team signed Wednesday – a.k.a. National Signing Day – to continue their careers on the collegiate level.
This septet of Titans, who in December helped the team claim its first state title, inked college grant-in-aids at their high school. Running back/wide receiver/kick returner Dre Farris and linebacker Masai Whyte signed with Western Kentucky University, quarterback Lawson Page, running back Ryan Watkins, wide receiver Nathan Sames and lineman Kris Jones inked with Morehead State University, and lineman Michael Goss signed with Lindsey Wilson College.
A signing ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. today in the school’s gymnasium to celebrate those seven, plus fellow senior Zach “Buck” Wilson, who will sign with Centre College.
All eight were key contributors in Collins’ run to the Class AAAA state title, which culminated in a 37-34 victory over Fort Thomas Highlands on Dec. 7 at WKU’s L.T. Smith Stadium.
“We are extremely proud of all of our seniors and what they’ve accomplished over their four years at Collins,” Titans Coach Jerry Lucas said. “They have built one of the top football programs in the state, and to do that in such a short period of time has been amazing. These eight players have been tremendous leaders for our school and football program. We have no doubt they will do great things at college and represent our school very well.”
Farris, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound speedster, accounted for 1,733 yards of total offense (682 rushing and 1,051 receiving) and 31 touchdowns (15 rushing, 16 receiving) for the Titans, who finished 13-2.
“We’re excited to have him. He’s a very explosive player,” new WKU Coach Jeff Brohm said of Farris at a press conference Wednesday. “He’s not only very explosive, but he’s produced at a high level. They won the state championship. He’s had numerous catches, numerous touchdowns. He can run the ball, catch the ball. He’s fast. He has explosion and burst in him.
“He’s a great kid. He’s been on our campus a lot. He came to our camp this [past] summer, so he was always around. We got a good, close look at him, and from the get-go and from Day One, we liked him. He’s a guy we’re excited to have. We’re definitely going to throw him in the mix. The fact that you can bring in your signees in June, start them in summer school, is going to give him a jump-start ahead, so that he’s ready for fall camp. We definitely want to evaluate him and get him on the field early.”
Farris and Whyte, his cousin, committed to the Hilltoppers last summer.
Whyte, a 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker/sometimes running back, tallied an astounding 200 tackles for the Titans this past season, and he rushed for eight touchdowns. He is one of three incoming linebackers who could vie for playing time, considering Western (8-4 last season) will lose several of its key contributors at that position as it moves into Conference USA.
“We signed those positions we needed the most,” Brohm said. “We feel like we’ve got some good athletes that can come in and compete right away, and that’s our hope.”
Page, a 6-1, 200-pounder who last week committed to Morehead (which went 3-9 last season), completed 213 of 339 passes (62.8 percent) for 3,214 yards and 38 touchdowns against only four interceptions. He also rushed for 556 yards – including 108 in the 4A final – and one TD.
“I feel like it’s the perfect place for me,” Page said. “Their coaching staff is really good, and their offense is a perfect fit for me because it’s the same offense I ran for four years basically. It also helps a lot when I have Nathan, Kris and Ryan going as well.”
Watkins, a 5-10, 190-pound running back who played his first three years at Eastern, rushed 148 times for 1,200 yards (an average of 8.1 per carry) and 16 TDs.
“First of all, it’s a great school for education,” Watkins said. “[Plus] it’s not too far, they are D one-double A, they play great competition, and they are looking to turn the program around and I want to be a part of that.”
Sames, a 6-0, 189-pound wide receiver/defensive back, had 61 receptions for 1,003 yards and 14 touchdowns, including the game-winner with 7 seconds left in the 4A final.
“I really like the coaches at Morehead and the atmosphere of the campus and football program. I’m going to be part of a great program while preparing myself for graduate school,” Sames said. “I also like the size and how it’s not too big and not too small. Morehead overall is the best fit for me.”
Jones, a 6-1, 260-pound lineman, was a force on both the offense and defense.
“Morehead reminded me so much of how Collins started from the bottom and ended up winning the state championship,” Jones said. “Morehead is in their rebuilding stages, and that’s something I want to work to be a part of again.”
Goss, a 6-2, 265-pound offensive lineman, was a leader on that line. He joins a Lindsey Wilson program that is flush with former Titans. The Blue Raiders went 8-3 last season, with six former Collins players on their roster.
“I went down for a visit, and the coaching staff and players made it really feel like home to me, and they offer the major (nursing) that I intend on pursuing,” Goss said. “[Plus] they have great facilities and a great football program that I want to be a part of.”
Wilson, a 6-4, 207-pound lineman, has been a standout on both sides of the line for the past few years. He joins the Division III Colonels, who went 7-3 last year.
“Academics speaks for itself, and the football program, they’ve got it going,” Wilson said.
Shuck signs too
In a football signing of a different kind, Collins senior soccer standout Chris Shuck officially inked with the University of Evansville. The 6-4, 175-pound defender had six goals and three assists last season for the Titans, who went 15-4-2.
“Chris has all the attributes you look for in a standout defender at this level,” Purple Aces Coach Mike Jacobs said. “He has great size, range of passing, [and] is outstanding in the air. He’s someone we expect to come in and compete for playing time straightaway.”