National Signing Day | Southeast, Palmetto players to remain teammates in college

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 7, 2013 

MANATEE -- They've spent the past two football seasons winning district championships.

Now the Palmetto and Southeast programs can share something else: Each team is sending teammates to the same college.

For Palmetto, that means wide receivers E.J. Burston and Shaq Harris are heading to the University of Massachusetts.

For Southeast, that means wide receiver Jacob Sannon and defensive back/punter Jordan Grabski are going to the University of Idaho.

They are just some of the Manatee County sports stars who made their college choices official when they signed national letters of intent on Wednesday, also known as National Signing Day.

Palmetto had a large cast in its auditorium as four football players joined three girls soccer players in putting pen to paper.

Cory Crawford rounded out Palmetto's deadly receiving corps when he turned his verbal commitment to Temple into a firm decision.

"It takes so much pressure off of me," Crawford said.

Crawford wasn't always a Division I prospect, and his future at wide receiver was in doubt early in his career. Crawford, showcasing a penchant to play any posi

tion, was the quarterback as a freshman while then-starter Melvin Burston was sidelined with an injury.

Soon enough, though, Crawford was ready to make an impact at his bread-and-butter position of wide receiver, which is where he'll play in the Big East for the Owls.

He snagged more than 30 receptions in leading Palmetto to the state semifinals in 2011, before maneuvering himself to running back due to multiple injuries at the position in early 2012.

Once there, Crawford established his game to the tune of 669 rushing yards on just 72 carries in the regular season. And despite offers from other programs, Crawford kept his commitment to Temple.

"They're just a team that reminds me of our team of building a program and everything," Crawford said. "They're committed to one another. They're just a family, and that's what I liked about them."

Meanwhile, E.J. Burston and Harris are heading to a former Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) program. The UMass Minutemen joined the Mid-American Conference last year and are eligible to compete for the conference title and bowl games this upcoming season.

Harris said the place felt right after his lone visit.

"The coaches are unbelievable," said Harris, who had 26 receptions for 463 yards in the regular season last fall and plans to major in business. "They care about you getting a degree more than anything. That's what stood out more and made me choose UMass."

Burston, who had been looking at Florida International, opted for UMass as well.

Harris said they both should be playing right away.

"It's going to give me a more comfort feeling knowing that I am going up there with my brother," said Burston, who totaled eight touchdowns and amassed 382 yards on 26 receptions in last fall's regular season. "And going up there with the same mindset to dominate. And holding it down, to represent for Palmetto, Florida."

A key cog up front, lineman Joe Bundrage, is also heading to college when he begins his career at Coffeyville (Kan.) Junior College. Also signing at Palmetto were soccer standouts Megan Peterson (Carson-Newman), Cassandra Ordonez (Coker College) and Jenna Steininger (University of North Florida).

Further to the south in Bradenton, Southeast had three football stars sign on Wednesday.

Eric Thompson, a defensive back, is going to Youngstown State in Ohio.

"It felt like home," said Thompson, who passed on four other offers including Western Kentucky. "... They showed me around to a couple of the restaurants and the mall and everything like that. It kind of felt like Bradenton. That's what really sold me."

Sannon and Grabski, who have known each other since elementary school, will go through the college experience together at Idaho.

For Grabski, it's a huge burden off his shoulders. He was offered a scholarship Tuesday night and will not have to enter school as a gray shirt.

"I kind of passed out on the weight room floor," said Grabski, who was working out when Southeast head coach Paul Maechtle showed him a text from one of the Idaho coaches.

The trio led the Seminoles to a district title at the expense of Palmetto last fall, a year removed when the Tigers won the district and eliminated Southeast from playoff contention.

Sannon was a key contributor with 39 catches for 810 yards and nine TDs, while Grabski said he expects to begin on special teams before fighting for a spot at safety for Idaho.

"They have a new wide receivers coach, who is also the offensive coordinator,' Sannon said. "And I like the type of offense they are going to run this year."

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service