Years of hard work paid off for a select number of athletes Wednesday. Throughout the day, a handful of ceremonies were held around the Central Coast at high school campuses to celebrate national signing day. It’s the day high school seniors officially commit to a four-year university by signing a National Letter of Intent.
At St. Joseph, the school held a lunch-time ceremony for a pair of football players. With family, friends, staff, teammates, and other supporters on hand, CJ Cole and Fenton Will each signed with Cal Poly.
“It’s a dream come true, what can I say?” said Will, a linebacker who was named Los Padres League Defensive Back of the Year. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little kid. Every day, doing what I have to do, it means so much that my dream is coming true today and I just can’t believe it.”
Like Will, Cole was ecstatic to sign with the Mustangs, who offered him a scholarship several months ago.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while,” said Cole, a running back that earned the Los Padres League Offensive Back of the Year. “Cal Poly has been my number one choice since the beginning of recruiting, so to be able to sign a letter and go there is really special.”
It seemed only appropriate Cole and Will would each sign with the same program. The two players have been teammates for several years, beginning when they were each just eight-years-old.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Will. “Cal Poly is a perfect fit with me and it means so much more that I’m here with one of my best buddies from my childhood, so it’s great.”
Both players also stressed the importance of staying local on the Central Coast, where their family and friends will be able to watch them closely throughout their collegiate careers.
“That was one of my attractive things about Cal Poly is that it’s so close,” said Will. “My family doesn’t have to go very far to see me or to see a game. Before I knew I was going to Cal Poly, I have gone to their games and I was already a fan of what they were doing up there, so it’s awesome.”
Cole noted Spanos Stadium is a familiar place with each family and both players are excited about joining a program that made the FCS Playoffs last season.
“It’s really cool for me and Fen because we grew up going to the games, watching them walk down on the field and stuff, so for us to be able to go and participate is really special,” said Cole.
Cole and Will were two of 18 players that signed with Cal Poly on Wednesday.
“There is no question that depth on defense and overall athletic ability were our focus during this recruiting period,” said Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh in a press release. “With this group, we will be able to move many of these guys around, whether it be linebacker or in the secondary or somewhere on offense.”
At Atascadero, an early morning ceremony was held outside the athletic office to celebrate the signing of Elijah Cooks, who committed to play football at the University of Nevada.
“It’s amazing,” said Cooks, a wide received named the 2016 Pac-5 League Offensive Back of the Year. “One of the best feelings I’ve ever had. Beyond excited to sign with a school that I’ve always loved and cared for. It’s just a great feeling.”
Cooks was one of 20 players signed by first-year head coach Jay Norvell. Signing with the Wolfpack of the Mountain West Conference was particularly meaningful for the 6-foot-5 standout.
“I chose Nevada because I have family there,” said Cooks. “Since I was little, I’ve always gone to Nevada games. My cousin played there. It’s going to be a great fit for me, so it’s been a dream school for me.”
For the Cooks family, Wednesday’s ceremony was history repeating itself. Just five years earlier, Cook’s older sister Mariah, who starred for Righetti girls basketball, went through the same situation.
“My sister played Division I basketball at Washington State,” said Elijah Cooks. “When she signed, I knew I wanted to have that feeling, and ever since then, I knew it was going to happen, and for my family again. It’s amazing!”
Mariah Cooks, along with several other family members were on hand to watch Elijah sign his letter of intent. After signing his letter, Elijah Cooks reflected on everything he had accomplished to arrive at this momentous occasion.
“It’s taken a lot,” Cooks said. “A lot of hard work, effort, giving my all every time and coming out knowing I have a dream and I want to accomplish that.”
Two other local athletes each signed Letters of Intent today. Soccer standouts Grace Park of San Luis Obispo and Emma Hotaling of Morro Bay both committed to play at Cal Poly.