On national signing day, Male’s Keion Wakefield fulfilled a promise he made to himself and his family four years ago.
After his eighth grade graduation and just shortly after his mother passed away, Wakefield told his dad that he would play for Male, they would beat St. Xavier and Trinity and that he would play Division I football. The wide receiver recalled that story on the day he signed his letter of intent to play for the University of Louisville, a school he committed to last summer.
Injuries kept Wakefield from playing for more than half the season for the Bulldogs. In seven games, the three-star receiver caught 15 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Still, he never felt any concern that his commitment to the Cardinals, where the speedster could also see time as a returner, would be honored.
Playing for his hometown team may bring some added pressure, but as he said before the ceremony at the high school Wednesday afternoon, diamonds are made from pressure.
“That Saturday night it makes you more juiced up knowing that you’re playing in front of your hometown,” said the 5-11, 175-pound Wakefield, one of three Louisville high school players to sign with UofL this year. “You know the expectations of the fan base and the coaches being a local kid.”
Wakefield’s signing highlighted a banner day for the Male program. In all, 11 seniors who played key roles in the school’s first state title in 15 years and its first undefeated season in 51 years signed letters of intent Wednesday afternoon. In addition to Wakefield, three other players signed letters to play for Division I schools.
Running back Devin Gentry signed with Georgia State. The 5-10, 180-pound third-team all-state product ran for 1,061 yards and 19 touchdowns in 12 games in 2015 and also caught 13 passes for 356 yards and five more scores. However, he will likely play defensive back for a fledgling Panthers program that enters its fourth season in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Sun Belt school earned its first bowl berth last season, playing in the AutoNation Cure Bowl.
“I went on a visit (and) their facilities are second to none,” Gentry said. “Everything’s new. They’re growing every day.”
Fellow third-team all-state selection Zackery Smith signed to play for Southeast Missouri State in the Football Championship Subdivision. A 5-11, 175-pound receiver, Smith stepped up in Wakefield’s absence to lead the team in receptions (48), receiving yards (1,040) and receiving touchdowns (14). When he stepped up to announce his intention to join the Ohio Valley Conference’s Redhawks, Smith let his emotions show as he thanked his family, coaches and fellow students..
Joining him at SEMO will be linebacker Zach Hall, who had 81 tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception return for a touchdown as an inside linebacker.
Other Male seniors who signed Wednesday included: Linebacker Jack Kuerzi, who signed with the University of Indianapolis, a Division II program. The linebacker led the team with 82 total tackles. As the anchor of the defense, he also picked off two passes and recovered a fumble.
Lineman Noah Bringer and defensive back James Todd, who recorded 42 tackles last season, opted to attend Division II Kentucky Wesleyan.
Tight end Ethan Britt will play for Division III Rose-Hulman this fall. Britt caught 38 passes for 719 yards – both good for second in their respective categories on the team – and scored three touchdowns.
Defensive back Demetrius Holt signed with Victor Valley College, a junior college based in California. Last season, Holt picked off three passes, returning one for a touchdown, and registered 28 tackles in 11 games.
Linemen Tyler Buckner and Paul Blincoe both signed with Lindsey Wilson College.
These seniors were not just a part of a team that won the state title, they began their careers at Male with an undefeated season as a freshman team. Wolfe said he expects other seniors, including third-team all-state lineman Isaiah Arnold (6-3, 359 pounds) and quarterback Hayden Shelton to announce their school choices in the near future. Potentially, 17 of the Bulldogs 32 seniors may play in college next season, the coach said.
“I don’t know that I’ll have another class like this,” he said. “This is the best one in 17 years of coaching.”