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Stallard: National Signing Day about more than sports

Feb. 10, 2018 at 9:52 p.m.


The Longview News-Journal's coverage area (where we sell newspapers) includes 44 high schools. You can more than double that with our web site, ETVarsity.com.

My newspaper career spans three-plus decades and also includes stops in Lufkin and Kilgore.

I don't personally know every student/athlete in all of the schools I've covered at all of those newspapers, but I know a good number of them. And, I care about all of them.

That's probably why I got a little annoyed with the gentleman at the grocery store on Thursday when he roasted my newspaper and other media outlets for making such a big deal out of National Signing Day.

His reasoning?

"Most of those kids don't even make it."

I've met too many people like Mr. Sunshine. It does no good to argue with them, so I simply walked away. Looking back, I wish I had gotten in his face and taken up for the kids.

It probably wouldn't have changed his mind. To him and too many others like him, if an athlete doesn't eventually play in the National Football League, National Basketball Association or Major League Baseball, they didn't make it.

Those folks couldn't be more wrong if they went off to a big college somewhere and majored in Wrong.

I should have told him about Johnathan Mumphrey.

Mumphrey never played in the NFL, but the Kilgore High School graduate played football at Southern Methodist University, earned a degree and is now President of Marketing for Total Athlete Sportz – a non-profit organization based in Rowlett that gives young athletes a chance to learn the game of football while also developing lifelong character traits and leadership skills.

Mumphrey still has deep East Texas ties, and wants this area to become part of Total Athlete Sportz (more to come on that at a later date). Until then he'll continue to help young kids learn about football and life so they are prepared for life if a football career doesn't happen.

Johnathan Mumphrey made it.

I should have introduced him to John Brisco, a Pine Tree graduate who earned a degree from Prairie View A&M and has played basketball professionally in Mexico, China and Lithuania. You can read about his dream of playing in the NBA in today's edition, but if that dream doesn't happen you can bet Brisco will put his degree and his experience to use when he finally does hang up the sneakers.

John Brisco made it.

I also should have urged him to read today's East Texas Softball Preview and next week's East Texas Baseball Preview and check out the list of coaches at our area high schools.

At Pine Tree, head coach Paul Ellsworth is a Longview graduate and assistants Carmen Gadt and Carol Halcumb are Pine Tree grads. Hallsville's Kayla Whatley, Marshall's Alli Shepperd, Kilgore's Cheyenne Kirkpatrick, Elysian Fields' Lexi Commander and Jefferson's Misty Randolph are all back teaching and coaching at their alma maters, while Sabine's Molly Mackey (Overton graduate) and Hughes Springs' Tisha Thompson (Jefferson graduate) also came back to East Texas to help shape our young student/athletes.

On the baseball side, Pine Tree head coach Trevor Petersen (Hallsville graduate) has a staff full of former East Texas standouts in Telvin Darden (Overton), Garrett Methvin (Spring Hill) and Blake Ware (White Oak), and White Oak head coach Skylar Stagner and assistant Tyler Terry are also teaching and coaching where they played.

They made it.

And, don't forget about Hallsville baseball coach Scott Mitchell. The 1985 Kilgore High School graduate has won 434 games in a 23-year coaching career, and 51 of his former players moved on to play college baseball.

Scott Mitchell made it.

Look. I get it. The ultimate dream for most athletes is to play at the highest level their sport offers, and they didn't become college recruits by settling for anything less.

But, for every Trent Williams (Washington Redskins) and Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles) – Longview kids who "made it" to the top — there are thousands of student/athletes who will earn a degree and go to work in the real world.

Those kids didn't fail.

We failed them if they have been led to believe earning a degree and getting a job means they didn't make it.

(Email: jstallard@news-journal.com; Follow Jack Stallard on Twitter: @lnjsports)

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