Two future Buckeyes among four Lakota West players who sign with college programs

Left to right: Latham McComis, Jyaire Brown, Lakota West head football coach Tom Bolden, Alex Afari and Tegra Tshabola stand for photos during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Latham McComis is signing with Wofford College, Jyaire Brown is signing with The Ohio State University, Alex Afari is signing with University of Kentucky and Tegra Tshaboa is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

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Left to right: Latham McComis, Jyaire Brown, Lakota West head football coach Tom Bolden, Alex Afari and Tegra Tshabola stand for photos during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Latham McComis is signing with Wofford College, Jyaire Brown is signing with The Ohio State University, Alex Afari is signing with University of Kentucky and Tegra Tshaboa is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

WEST CHESTER TWP. – Lakota West High School offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola remembers the first time he saw a football game after his family moved to Southwest Ohio from the Democratic Republic of Congo when he was 5 years old.

Ohio State was playing on TV, and he was hooked. From that moment on, he told himself he was going to play football for Ohio State someday.

In May 2020, Tshabola – one of the top-rated left tackles in the nation -- gave his verbal commitment to the Buckeyes, and on Wednesday, he sealed his dream when he signed his National Letter of Intent. West celebrated the accomplishment of Tshabola and three others in a ceremony at the school Wednesday afternoon. Cornerback Jyaire Brown (Ohio State), defensive back Alex Afari (Kentucky) and offensive lineman Lathan McComis (Wofford) also signed NLIs.

“It was just an unreal feeling,” Tshabola said. “I’ve dreamt about this like my whole life. Since I was a little kid, the first time I watched a football game, it was an Ohio State game. I told myself I would be there one day. It’s just crazy. It happened so fast, and I’m here now.”

Tshabola, a three-time all-Greater Miami Conference pick and two-time all-Southwest Ohio and all-state selection, said his memories of that first game he saw flooded back into his mind Wednesday morning when he was signing the official paperwork, and he was grateful to celebrate the moment later in the day with his family and friends present.

Part of what sold him on the Buckeyes, aside from his childhood dream, was the close proximity of the school to his home.

“Just the thought of being able to compete at such a high level against the best athletes in the world, getting the chance to travel all over and still have my family there, they’ll to get to watch me play,” Tshabola said. “It’s just all those small things. They all just came together.”

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Lakota West's Jyaire Brown sits during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Brown is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Lakota West's Jyaire Brown sits during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Brown is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

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Lakota West's Jyaire Brown sits during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Brown is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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Lakota West's Tegra Tshabola sits during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Tshabola is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Lakota West's Tegra Tshabola sits during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Tshabola is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

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Lakota West's Tegra Tshabola sits during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Tshabola is signing with The Ohio State University. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The 6-foot-6, 330-pound left tackle said he also is glad to have a teammate joining him in Columbus. Brown moved from Louisiana and transferred to West ahead of the 2020 season, after he already had committed to Ohio State that April. Tshabola was already aware of Brown before then just from being in the same recruiting class, and now they will attend Ohio State as closer friends.

While Tshabola chose not to enroll early to finish out his senior year of high school, Brown said he will be enrolling early. In Brown, the Buckeyes are getting what coach Tom Bolden calls “a model corner cover” who collected five interceptions, 416 yards receiving, five touchdown receptions and two punt return touchdowns in his two seasons at West.

Brown said he chose Ohio State in large part because of defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs and his experience with defensive backs. He is looking forward to get an early jump on college after signing his letter of intent Wednesday.

“It was special,” Brown said. “I’m just really anxious, ready to get going up there and ready to work.”

Afari, a two-time All-GMC first team pick, was excited to sign with Kentucky, especially after watching his older brother, David Afari, go through the same process last year. David Afari is a freshman running back at Miami University and was able to be there for his younger brother’s signing day event Wednesday.

It was a “special moment” for their mom, especially, Afari said. The importance of family was something the Wildcats seemed to understand in his recruiting process, and that had much to do with his decision to commit there in May despite offers from several other Division I schools.

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Lakota West's Alex Afari speaks to the crowd during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Afari is signing with University of Kentucky. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Lakota West's Alex Afari speaks to the crowd during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Afari is signing with University of Kentucky. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

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Lakota West's Alex Afari speaks to the crowd during a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. Afari is signing with University of Kentucky. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“It’s a family school,” said Afari, who collected 88 tackles, four interceptions in three seasons with the Firebirds. “All the coaches have been really loyal to me since I was in like ninth grade. So yeah, that was big, and I’m playing in the SEC as well. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.”

McComis, a two-time All-GMC and All-Southwest first team pick, was relieved to be done with the recruiting process and to have the opportunity to celebrate his signing alongside his teammates, especially Tshabola and Afari, who had known since the three attended Ridge Junior High together.

The three-year versatile offensive lineman was recruited to Wofford by West graduate and current co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Dane Romero.

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Lakota West's Latham McComis participates in a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. McComis is signing with Wofford College. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Lakota West's Latham McComis participates in a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. McComis is signing with Wofford College. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

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Lakota West's Latham McComis participates in a national letter of intent college football signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021 at Lakota West High School. McComis is signing with Wofford College. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

“The coach that was recruiting me came from Lakota West, so he knew the background of where I’m coming from, and it felt like a real family with him recruiting me and getting me down there and seeing the campus,” McComis said. “I just fell in love. … I got my team. I’m ready to go and ready to go down there and get to work.”

Elsewhere in Butler County, at least three others signed NILs, including Hamilton’s Kaleb Johnson (Iowa) and Lakota East’s Charlie Kenrich (Purdue) and Caleb VanHooser (Indiana State).

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