By John Bombatch
XENIA — Several Greene County area high school student athletes signed their names on the dotted line on Wednesday, committing themselves to their respective colleges on National Letter of Intent Signing Day.
In a Signing Day rarity, a trio of Xenia High School Buccaneers all signed to play the same sport at the same school.
In front of nearly 100 friends, classmates and family members, close friends Ryan Johnson, Danny Naylor and Rocky James each signed NLIs to play football and attend St. Francis University in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“It’s the first time in my 20 years as a head coach that I can remember having three players all sign to go to the same college. It just fell into place, and it worked out for three great families, and three terrific student athletes,” Xenia High football coach Bob DeLong said. “But what makes me really proud is to say that each of these young men have a grade-point average of 3.0 or better.”
James, a first team all Greater Western Ohio Conference and all Southwest Ohio selection, almost chose Eastern Kentucky University, but changed his mind late in the recruiting process. He was very happy with his decision.
“It means a lot. I wanted to keep up the tradition, and for me to be going with both my best friends, I wanted to stay with them. It’s great that we’re all going together,” he said.
Johnson was Xenia’s Defensive Player of the Year this past season. Was glad to be going to the same school with James and Naylor.
“The people I’ve been playing with my whole career, we’ll make that bond even stronger and we’ll carry on at the college level,” Johnson said. “It means a lot. It’s a big opportunity for us and we’ll make the best of it.”
Naylor, the Bucs Offensive POY this season, hinted that the Buccaneer trio will likely become roommates at SFU as well.
“We grew up together, and in middle school all three of us started playing sports together,” Naylor said. “We’re very fortunate to be going to the same school together. It’s gonna be a blast.”
At Greeneview High, the Rams girls soccer team members and several of her friends looked on as Jasmine Rockhold signed to play collegiate women’s soccer at the University of Charleston in West Virginia. The Rams standout defender originally went down to UC for a soccer camp, liked the campus and started looking into the school.
“Their coaches saw me play, and then I started looking at the school and their academics and I saw what the atmosphere was like there, and I just knew that was where I wanted to be,” Rockhold, who holds a 4.2 gpa, said.
Her dad, longtime basketball coach Rocky Rockhold, wasn’t so sure whether soccer was Jasmine’s forte, at first.
“Oh, the first couple times we took her to play recreational soccer when she was little, it was a disaster!” he laughed. “…But her mom, Angie, and I are so very proud of her. Jasmine has worked so hard to be able to play at the next level and to have this opportunity to further her education. From a parent’s perspective, it’s really exciting.”
Current Rams coach Shawn Brown and former coach Dan Ludwick were also on hand for Rockhold’s signing.
Ludwick recalled how as a sophomore Rockhold took a lopsided loss to perennial powerhouse Cincinnati Madeira particularly hard.
“I knew then that she had the drive to do whatever it took to succeed,” he said. “She stepped up her game and did her best to help her teammates after that. That’s the mark of a great player. And she’s an amazing student as well.”
Over at Fairborn High School, a quartet of Skyhawks signed their National Letters of Intent — three to play football, another for men’s soccer.
Skylar Shonkwiler signed to attend Shawnee State University, in Portsmouth, and play men’s soccer at the NAIA Division II school.
Dusty Johnson will play football and attend nearby NCAA Division III program Wilmington College, Leslen Switzer will play his collegiate ball further down Interstate 75 for former Cincinnati Bengal-turned-coach Devin Fulcher at Cincinnati Christian, which will enter the Mid-South Conference next season as a first-year NAIA D-II program, and Aron Childers will play football and attend Alderson Broaddus University (NCAA D-II) in Philippi, W. Virginia.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is likely a partial list of Greene County area student athletes who have signed National Letters of Intent. For instance, two more student athletes are expected to sign at Greeneview High on Friday. If your Greene County area high school has a signing day ceremony planned, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!)
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444. Ext. 2123.