Prep football: Annual GMC Signing Day event honors next-level players

SHARONVILLE — Jeff Tyus looked around the big room packed with people Wednesday afternoon and admitted it was a beautiful scene.

“This is amazing. I would’ve never thought I’d be a part of something like this,” Tyus said of the 18th annual Greater Miami Conference National Signing Day football event at the Sharonville Convention Center. “I’ve been dreaming this since I started playing sports. Not just football, but sports period. I’ve always wanted to be here on this day.”

The Fairfield High School senior quarterback was part of the festivities thanks to his signing with the University of Charleston, an NCAA Division II school in West Virginia.


» Fairfield's All, Hensley confirm collegiate football choices

» Strong memories, big plans for West's Jones, Faucheux

The 6-foot-5 Tyus said he considered St. Francis (Pa.) and Morgan State (Md.), but once he visited Charleston, “I knew where I wanted to go.”

“They probably offered me about two months ago,” Tyus said. “I’ve been talking to Coach (Zack) Johnson ever since they offered, and then when I went on a visit, it was just all love. I just felt like the fit was right. They run a scheme that we run here at Fairfield, and Coach (Quinn) Sanders, the quarterbacks coach, I clicked with him.

“They said I have a chance of winning the starting job my freshman year, so hopefully I can go do that and make that happen.”

Tyus plans to major in psychology, perhaps leading to a career as a child psychologist or a psychoanalyst with law enforcement.

He was one of eight Fairfield players recognized at the GMC extravaganza. Allen Caldwell (Pikeville), Jacob Hensley (East Tennessee State), Greg Fitzpatrick (Thomas More), Del Thomas (Thomas More), Peyton Brown (Lake Erie) and Mekiyell Muhammad (Lake Erie) were in attendance. Erick All wasn’t there, having enrolled early at Michigan.

Hamilton’s lone representative was senior cornerback Leondre’ Pope, who’s headed for NCAA Division II Lake Erie College in Painesville.

Pope admitted he had never heard of the school before the coaching staff contacted him and he went for a visit.

“I felt like it was just fitted for me,” Pope said. “I wanted to get out of Cincinnati. I didn’t want to be like everyone else, so I’ll go up north. It’s a little cold up there, so I’ve got to get used to it. But I like the dorms, I like the college, I like the energy of the coaches. I just feel like it was great for me.”

Pope, who also considered Urbana, Mount St. Joseph, Bluffton and Tiffin, transferred to Hamilton from Princeton in the middle of his sophomore year. He wasn’t thrilled about the move at first.

“I didn’t really want to go to the school, but I actually fell in love with the coaches and the staff and all the people at the school,” Pope said. “So I played there for my junior and senior year, and I loved it. I just loved the energy of the school.”

He plans to study early childhood development at Lake Erie and said playing college football has been his dream for a long time.

“When I was little, I used to watch Ohio State,” Pope said. “I always liked telling myself I was going to make it to college. I wanted to push. No matter what holds you back, no one can tell you you can’t do something. I always wanted to go to college and pursue my dream.”

Lakota West was represented by six players Wednesday — Steven Faucheux (Purdue), Dylan Jones (U.S. Naval Academy), Ryan Francisco (Marian), LaDonnis Griffin (Tiffin), Nick Hjort (Ohio Dominican) and Jalen Swanson (Morehead State).

Hjort, a punter and place-kicker, said NCAA Division II ODU was a late entry in his recruiting process.

“It was kind of something that slipped in last second,” Hjort said. “I really enjoyed the small campus. I’m not really a big-campus guy. I like more one-on-one type of learning people … their classroom sizes (averaged) 15 students.

“It wasn’t like a lot of the other small schools that were kind of dropped down in the cornfield. It’s 10 minutes from Columbus, so I really like the balance of small school with the big-campus amenities that were possible.”

Hjort, who plans to major in biology and become a chiropractor someday, has the ability to punt or kick in college. Given a choice, he would pick punting.

“Oh, punting for sure,” Hjort said. “A lot of people always look at kickers. Punters are a big part of the game too. I just find more enjoyment in the punting.

“In my pee-wee years, obviously it’s every kid’s dream to go play college ball, NFL, however that comes. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I decided to drop all my other positions and just go special teams only.”

Two Middletown players, Troy Vinson (Wayne State) and Shandon Morris (Notre Dame College), were involved in the GMC event. Lakota East and Oak Hills had no players in attendance.

Also recognized Wednesday at the convention center were:

Colerain — Syncere Jones (Miami), Ivan Pace Jr. (Miami), Rusty Feth (Miami), Luke Bolden (Miami), J.J. Davis (Cincinnati), T.J. Gonella (Siena Heights), Eric Phillips (Cincinnati), Jakari Patterson (Southern Illinois), Deante Smith-Moore (Mississippi College), Alonzo Kendricks (Indiana Wesleyan)

Mason — Casey Miller (Indiana State), Nick Niehoff (Bowling Green), Logan Dalton (Dayton), Chase Evans (Southern Illinois), Camden Woods (Indianapolis), Brogan Reed (Urbana)

Princeton — Hosea Hairston (Ashland), Jermaine Wimpye (Tiffin), Tre Key (Urbana), LeVaughn Wilson (Urbana), Elijah Hale (Norfolk State), D.J. Shirley (Ashland)

Sycamore — Brian Doneghy (Dayton)

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