Most of the suspense on National Signing Day in Miami-Dade County came to an end Wednesday morning at Booker T. Washington High School.
Linebacker Matthew Thomas and offensive lineman Denver Kirkland each made their much-anticipated college choices during a live ESPN broadcast.
Thomas, rated No. 1 in Dade overall, picked Florida State over Miami.
Kirkland, one of the top linemen in the country, had originally been considering UM until recently, signed with Arkansas.
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“It was real tough, leaving home, leaving my mom,” Kirkland said. “But things happen for a reason and you have to go away. I’m going to go away and grow up. I have better bond with Arkansas coaches than any other coaches that recruited me.
Kirkland said UM was his second choice after pulling its scholarship offer last Thursday. Kirkland said UM met with him and his mother Saturday and put the offer back on the table.
“Miami came in second place because of the things that have [happened] these past couple weeks,” Kirkland said. “That’s the only reason they came in second. After that I was leaning toward Florida State and Arkansas. It meant a lot to have so many people supporting me. I’m going to move on with my life and go to Arkansas.”
Thomas said he chose FSU over USC more than UM.
“I’m real happy,” Thomas said. “I put myself in a tough situation and had to fight through it. I think it’s a family atmosphere at Florida State. It’s not that far away. My whole family can come watch and see me.”
Booker T.’s class totaled 14 signees including defensive back Michael Johnson, who surprised many when he signed with Marshall instead of FSU. Marshall also signed running back D’Von Ballard.
No one had a bigger signing class in Dade than Northwestern, however.
Northwestern had 17 of its football players sign with colleges at a special ceremony at the school’s library.
Coach Stephen Field, who guided the Bulls back to the playoffs this season, said the highlight was Wednesday morning.
“Today was our state championship,” Field said. “This is what it’s all about and it’s a dream come true for these kids.”
Eight of the Bulls’ signees signed letters with FBS schools headlined by defensive back and track star Artie Burns, who signed with the University of Miami. Burns, ranked No. 2 overall in Miami-Dade County, had four interceptions this past season and has been the fastest high school hurdler in the nation each of the past two years.
“It’s my hometown team and I knew for a longtime it’s where I wanted to be at,” Burns said. “A day like this means a lot because a lot of us have been together since the 10th grade. There’s a lot of talent at UM and looking forward to accomplishing my goals.”
Running back Darius Tice signed with the University of South Florida. Tice, one of the county’s top rushers, chose the Bulls after originally having committed to Cincinnati. Tice ran for 1,210 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
“I sat down with my parents and decided to stay close to home because I have a very close family,” Tice said. “I visited USF a week ago and I fell in love with the school and my family loved it too.”
Overall, 48 Dade players signed with FBS schools. In addition to Burns, UM signed Southridge defensive back Jamal Carter.
FIU signed five from Dade — Jordan Guest (Columbus), Akeem Barton (Norland), Trayvon Williams (Norland), Jordan Gibbs (Killian) and Xavier Hines (FIU).
Thomas will be joined at FSU by Columbus wide receiver Jesus Wilson.
Central’s Da’Wan Hunte let his little brother help him announce his choice.
With caps from Miami and North Carolina State on the table, Hunte’s little brother Dante’, ran up to the table and handed his older brother a Purdue hat, marking his decision to become a Boilermaker.
“When I took my visit, I just felt like I was at home,” Hunte said. “As soon as left the campus, I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
Central had seven players sign.
Wilson’s teammate at Columbus, running back Lorenzo Woodley, was one of two prominent Dade recruits along with Gulliver’s Stacy Thomas that did not sign Wednesday.
Columbus running back Daryl Chestnut did sign with Indiana choosing the Hoosiers over Western Michigan. Gulliver had three other signees — running back Bo Ellis (Harvard) and linemen Grant Siegel and Jordi Dalmau (Colgate).
Louisiana-Lafayette picked up five players from Dade including Carol City defensive back Simeon Thomas, Hialeah linebacker George Williams and North Miami defensive back Troy McCollum.