Signing day special for all involved at Viera High
Viera High football players (from l-r) Evan Cruz, Hayden Kingston and Tre Nixon were part of a historic day at Viera High as 11 student-athletes made their college commitments official.
VIIERA VOICE Carl Kotala
The biggest national signing day in Viera High history was made special not only by the student athletes who were there to be recognized for choosing the schools where they will continue their careers, but by the people who packed the school’s auditorium to show their support.
As parents, friends, teammates and the school’s cheerleaders all looked on, 11 Hawks announced their commitments Wednesday afternoon.
Some were highly anticipated, like wide receiver Tre Nixon officially declaring he will attend the University of Mississippi.
Quarterback Hayden Kingston will be going to another power conference, Wake Forest.
Four other football players – Trevor Merritt II (Bethune-Cookman), Jamyson Boyd (Eastern Kentucky), Evan Cruz (Charleston Southern) and Alex Cabrera (Eastern Kentucky) – also made their commitments official.
But they were hardly alone.
Jordan Walsh will be playing soccer at UCF. Teammate and goalkeeper Alex Capalbo will be heading to Barton Community College, a school that regularly competes in the NJCAA championship tournament.
Golfers Kyle DeCenzo and Ryan Rozic will be playing for Eastern Florida State College’s national powerhouse.
And standout softball pitcher Kiana East will be striking out hitters for Miami Dade College next year.
The tables set up for all 11 athletes nearly took up the whole stage at the school’s auditorium.
“It’s awesome to see so many people that you grew up with, and you talked with about this dream and this day,” Kingston said. “You guys all had this dream of playing college football and to see, for the most part, all of my friends accomplish their dream at some level, in some type of way, it’s really awesome.”
One by one, each student stood up and told the crowd which school they would be attending. Afterward, Walsh and Capalbo were surrounded by their Viera High girls soccer teammates and a young family friend even brought Walsh flowers.
“My heart was beating out of my chest,” Walsh said of making her announcement. “I was really nervous. I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. But overall, it was really exciting and a really validating feeling. It felt good. And seeing everyone here to support me, it meant a lot.”
While every signing was important to each student athlete, their family and friends, it was Nixon’s choice that had been drawing national interest for months on end.
The speedy wide receiver, who had more than 40 scholarship offers from major programs throughout the country, decided on Ole Miss after making a visit there late last month, where he bonded with his future teammates and the coaching staff.
“It just felt like family,” Nixon said. “It was my best fit for me, offensively and off the field, too.”
Nixon had Penn State and Georgia at the top of his recruiting list for a long time, but that official visit to Oxford just confirmed the feelings he had from making a previous trip.
“I did visit Ole Miss, I think it was in the summer of my junior year,” Nixon said. “We only spent four hours there, but those four hours that we spent, it was really good.
“So when me and my mom went back and we did pros and cons of each school, we didn’t have any cons for Ole Miss. When we went back up and visited, it just felt like, this is why we had no cons. Because this is the place.”
Nixon said he plans to major in sports management, with the idea of becoming a coach one day.
“I love passing on what I know to little kids,” he said. “That’s what I like to do. When my playing days are over, I still want to be around football and I feel like that’s the best thing that would be for me.”
Although Kingston had been talking with Wake Forest throughout the recruiting process, he wasn’t sure if it would result in a chance to play for the Demon Deacons. Now, he’s going to be part of the ACC.
“Kind of late in the process, they approached me with the opportunity,” Kingston said. “The education I’m going to get and the football I’m going to play, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s a blessing to get to attend such an awesome university. I’m super excited.”
If there was a common theme players used for choosing their next school, it was the feeling of being part of a family.
* Cruz: “They said they were going to be at my wedding. That’s how you know coaches really care for you as a person. That’s what it’s all about. Some people say ‘family,’ but at Charleston Southern, they really mean it.’
* Merritt II: “It was like a family atmosphere. It felt like Viera. It was fun. The most important thing was the education for after football. After I’m done playing football, whenever that is – after college, or after the pros – I’ll have a job opportunity somewhere because they have a lot of strong connections.”
Boyd said was looking for a situation that would remind him of he had with the Hawks, who were not only a close-knit group, but played for the Class 7A state championship.
“I was just going in, looking for coaches that were going to be somewhat like the coaches we have now; that are full of excitement, competitive and are going to be there to support us throughout the four years that we’re there,” Boyd said. “That’s what I got out of every coach that was there.”
The fact that Cabrera will be going to Eastern Kentucky with Boyd will make the experience that much better since the two of them will be able to rely on each other.
“It’s amazing,’ Boyd said. “I don’t have to go up there by myself. A lot of people get up there and they get scared because they’re by themselves and they don’t have anybody to relate to.
“But having Alex there is going to be a huge aspect of being there. He’s an amazing person and an amazing player.”
Walsh, who along with her teammates will play in the Class 4A state girls soccer semifinals tonight at 6:30 against St. Thomas Aquinas, liked UCF for a number of reasons.
“I absolutely loved the program,” she said. “I loved the coaches. I just loved the whole atmosphere of the school. For me, it just felt right. I want to stay close to home because I’m really close to my family.
“But my major thing was the coaching and the overall style of play they played. It worked for me, so that’s why I chose that school.”
Proud parents and friends weren’t the only ones looking on as the signing day ceremony unfolded.
On signing day in 2015, Viera High football coach Kevin Mays said he hoped to see a large number of his players sitting up on the stage in 2016.
And if there was anything to take away from signing day 2016 at Viera High, it’s that dedication can make dreams come true.
“Obviously, you feel good as a coach,” Mays said. “But just to see these guys accomplish their goals, that’s the good part about it. They put in all the hard work and it paid off, like you told them it would. We’ll be fans of different schools now.”