Long: Dreams come true on Signing Day

Brother Rice's Ricky Smalling signs letter of intent to attend University of Illinois with his family surrounding him. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

All the high-caliber high school football athletes in the Class of 2017 signed their letters of intent on Wednesday. Signing Day is a special moment on the high school sports calendar. But the day means slightly different things to everyone in the area’s class of 2017.

Take electric talent Ricky Smalling, who signed with Illinois.

“Signing day means I’m one step closer to my dream,” the Brother Rice wide receiver said. Smalling obviously has an eye on the NFL.

Or the Sun-Times Player of the Year, Loyola offensive weapon Jake Marwede, a Duke recruit.

“The day means a lot,” Marwede said. “The group of guys in our 2017 class [at Duke] are fantastic, and we can’t wait to get to Durham.”

For some athletes, signing day is validation that dreaming is essential.

“I have played football my entire life and when I first told people I was going to play college football, they told me that was impossible,” Lake Park defensive lineman Jacub Panasuik said.

Panasuik, now stands 6-4, 250-pounds and signed his letter of intent to play at Michigan State. Another Big Ten bound athlete, Bolingbrook receiver Kendall Smith knows exactly how Panasiuk feels.

“I always dreamed as a kid of signing with a division one school on signing day like the kids I used to see on television,” Illinois bound Smith said.

Rich Central defensive lineman Caylon May had already envisioned putting pen to paper early Wednesday morning while pledging to Bowling Green University.

“I will feel joy and happiness when I sign because of my hard work that got me this far will continue on to the next level,” May said.

Plus, it’s tradition. Just ask hard-hitting Phillips defensive lineman Chris Elmore, a Syracuse recruit.

“It’s a tradition that so many student athletes look forward to. And to me it’s showing an achievement of all the hard work that I put in on and off the field,” Elmore said. “As I sign I’ll be thinking about all the early morning practices, the morning workouts, the extra workouts, and how it has all paid off.”

Wednesday was also a day to pause and remember where you came from. That’s what Marian Catholic quarterback Cameron Thomas, an Illinois signee did.

“The day makes every second worth it,” Thomas said. “It’s special because my dad and I are the only two people on either side of my family to get a full-ride scholarship and I’m proud to follow in his footsteps.

Family was also a major on the mind of Homewood-Flossmoor’s John Michael Schmitz, who signed with Minnesota.

“It is a special day because it’s the last step in recruiting,” Schmitz said. “But also most of my family will be there to support me which is the most important thing.”

All told, National Signing Day is a day to remember.

“You start to realize all of the work that you’ve put in to get to this point is really paying off,” Monitini running back and Western Michigan signee Prince Walker said. “That is what is so special.”

Even though signing day is as simple as a click of a pen and a steady hand on the dotted line, it’s a day to dream big and a yearly reminder that those dreams can come true.

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