Wednesday marked the first day senior high school football players may sign with NCAA Division I programs.
National Signing Day is the start of the two-month period for football players to sign a national letter of intent (NLI), binding their commitment to play for a Division I football team.
Signing Day has transformed into a chance for high schools to showcase their athletes in many sports apart from football. Ceremonies were held around the Ozarks on Wednesday for non-football athletes committing to NCAA Division II, Division III, NAIA and junior college programs. While a letter of intent is not required or binding at the sub-Division I levels, Signing Day offers the chance for athletes moving on to college sports to be recognized by their high schools.
Kickapoo two-way standout headed to the Big Ten
Football runs in the family for Kickapoo senior Travis Vokolek.
His father, former Missouri State defensive coordinator D.J. Vokolek, joined the Kickapoo coaching staff ahead of the 2016 season. Travis Vokolek logged 71 solo tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack from the strong safety position as a senior.
“The recruiting process is always, I think, a special time, a stressful time for young people. I’m happy how mature (Travis) was with it and how he came to a decision, and I’m excited for him,” D.J. Vokolek said.
Travis Vokolek considered football scholarship offers from Minnesota, Wyoming, Buffalo, Army, Northern Iowa, South Dakota, Missouri State and others.
“At the beginning, I would have never thought I’d be going to Rutgers, they stepped in and it’s been awesome,” Vokolek said.
From the tight end spot, Vokolek caught 17 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He said he’s happy to concentrate on playing offense for the Scarlet Knights.
“It’s Big Ten football. It’s just an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. They have two guys at tight end on the roster, so I feel like I can go up there and definitely play pretty early as soon as I get to work,” Vokolek said. “I love playing both sides of the ball. It doesn’t really matter to me, I just want to get out there and play.”
Vokolek isn’t the first in his family to primarily play defense in high school and sign with a college team for his offensive skill set. His cousin Chase Allen, a Nixa product now with Iowa State, did the same thing after leading Nixa in tackles in 2015.
Vokolek also consulted his uncle, former Missouri State, Kansas and Northern Iowa head coach Terry Allen. Ultimately, D.J. Vokolek said, Travis used the advice to make his own choice.
“We would give advice, we would leave him to make decisions on his own and let him evaluate it, but it was a family decision and we’re all happy,” D.J. Vokolek said.
Rutgers, Travis Vokolek said, won out based on careful deliberation.
“I got words of wisdom from everybody, and they just said, ‘Do what’s best for you and do what makes you happy. It’s not about what everybody else wants, it’s about what you want,’” Vokolek said.
Willard lineman chooses SEMO
Offensive tackle Martin Eidson is headed to Cape Girardeau to play for the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks. Eidson listed at 6-foot-4, 295 pounds on Willard’s roster. He was impressed with the Redhawks when he visited the campus in early October and watched them beat Eastern Illinois, then the No. 13-ranked FCS team in the country.
Eidson also liked the Redhawks’ pledge to build their program.
“It was really the coaching staff and them preaching the brick-by-brick process,” Eidson said.
The night before he signed his national letter of intent, Eidson wrestled for Willard in a 53-21 win over Bolivar. The heavyweight has been competing for two seasons at 285 pounds and won his Tuesday night match with a pin in just 13 seconds.
“(Wrestling) has helped my foot speed tremendously and it’s helped my stamina, endurance and mental toughness as well,” Eidson said.
Eidson is interested in studying business and political science at Southeast Missouri. The self-proclaimed “big fan of capitalism” is interested in American government and in considering a political career.
High school seniors signing with college athletic programs Feb. 1, 2017
Note: The official NCAA Division I signing period for all sports other than football and basketball opens April 12, 2017
Travis Vokolek, football, Rutgers
Grant Martin, football, Missouri State
Jarod Ozee, cross country, Missouri Southern
Alex Bossing, cross country, William Woods
Tyler Bossing, cross country, William Woods
Tim Cobb, cross country, Truman State
Zach Peters, soccer, Drury
Krystal Caylor, swimming, University of Indianapolis
Annalee Arbeitman, soccer, William Jewell
Sarah Holman, soccer, Evangel
Alyson Reinold, soccer, Evangel
Skylr Houzenga, soccer, Southwest Baptist
Jessica Weedin, soccer, Southwest Baptist
Ian Hanson, soccer, Missouri S&T
Cole Johnson, soccer Maryville
Emma Skornia, soccer, Missouri State
Anthony Riley Jr., football, Evangel (transfer from Quincy University)
Luke Miller, cross country and track and field, Colorado Western State University
Connor Burnett, baseball, State Fair Community College
Dylan Stowell, baseball, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Chase Gafner, golf, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
Sawyer Murrell, baseball, Finlandia University
Ian Marshall, football, Missouri Southern State
Spencer Wester, football, Lindenwood
Bryce Wagner, football, Missouri Southern State
Kami Holt, softball, Evangel
Jack Hayes, football, Missouri S&T
Joey Dopp, baseball, Drury
Corey Lummis, baseball, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M
Paige Wells, basketball, Central Methodist
Layne Jennings, football, Missouri S&T
Ben Lambton, football, Missouri Southern State
Olivia Ramsey, golf, Drury
Alex Johnson, soccer, Maryville University
Maycie Palmer, soccer, Drury
Parker Crawford, soccer, Drury
Gracie Gimlin, soccer, Missouri Southern State
Jonathan Dasal, track and field and soccer, Evangel
Meleah Ridenour, track and field, Southwest Baptist University
Josiah Wilson, track and field, Missouri S&T
Kevin King, soccer, Drury
Nicos Oropeza, football, Southwest Baptist University
Mason Stipp, football, Missouri Southern State
Martin Eidson, football, Southeast Missouri State
Chance Hepola, football, Evangel
Sydney Mavengere, football, Evangel
Austin Hymer, football, Central Methodist University
Daniel Terry, football, William Penn
Dalton Cloyd, football, Evangel
Austin Fodge, football, Benedictine
Luke Masters, football, William Penn
Chad Utzman, football, Missouri S&T
Jordan Silvers, football, Arkansas (preferred walk-on)
Mariah Mitchell, soccer, Evangel
Hayden Weddle, football, Evangel University
Garrett Hadlock, football, Southwest Baptist University
Jarrett Massie, football, Southwest Baptist University
Great Day To Be A MTNEER. Congrats to Garrett Hadlock and Jarrett Massie on signing with SBU Football. pic.twitter.com/cGC1DUGi89— Mt. Vernon AD (@MVHS_AD) February 1, 2017
Payton Evans, football, Southwest Baptist University
Michael Branch, football, Southwest Baptist University
Aiden Brown, football, Missouri Southern State
Alex Turner, football, Pittsburg (Kansas) State
Cameron Cody, football, Southwestern College
Brian Parra-Navarro, football, Mid-America Nazarene
Korey Robinette, football, Missouri Southern State
Lane Taylor, football, Mid-America Nazarene
Parker Soper, football, Evangel
Josh Pipkin, football, Evangel
Ethan Bates, football, Missouri Southern State
Jerrett Esposito, football, Missouri Southern State
Jalen Roby, football, Evangel
Jordan Frazier, football, Missouri State (transfer from Oklahoma State)
Hakken Friend, football, Evangel
Hunter Vanlue, football, Harding University
Dyllan Decker, football, Evangel
Austin Starkey, football, Missouri Southern State
Patrick Schultz, football, Benedictine College
Trystan Short, football, Quincy University
Who did we miss? Please send additional college signing and commitment notifications to News-Leader high school sports reporter Rance Burger at email@example.com or on Twitter @RanceBurgerNL.