In the hours after Tarique Milton signed a National Letter of Intent to Iowa State in Manatee High School auditorium, the star wide receiver’s name was conspicuously absent from the Cyclones’ social media presence and website. The Manatee senior had waited basically as long as he could to make his college decision. Now, he’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
Milton was unable to fax his Letter of Intent to Ames, Iowa, on Wednesday. He still needs to finish one last online class, head coach John Booth confirmed via text Wednesday.
“It got to a point where we were getting closer to Signing Day, their staff was here, two or three guys coming in almost weekly,” Booth said earlier Wednesday, “just to make sure that he's finishing things academically that they needed him to do.”
Milton visited ISU during September and locked in on Iowa State as his favorite shortly thereafter. He decided to wait until National Signing Day, though, to let everyone know.
As Booth ran through the Hurricanes’ other three Division I players making their commitments official, Milton quietly placed a hat on the table in front of him. The cardinal red hue and gold trim was familiar for the Canes — Milton chose the same destination as Manatee’s last 1,000-yard receiver. The senior settled on Iowa State from a list of 18 schools that included Kentucky, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Michigan State, Rutgers, South Florida, Central Florida and Temple.
“They checked on me every week,” Milton said. “They’re friendly. They make you feel real comfortable.”
Milton is the only public school player from the county in this recruiting class set to play at a Power Five Conference program next season, and his production on the field matched his coveted status in recruiting offices around the country. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound senior was the Herald’s All-Area Offensive Player of the Year and a third-team All-State selection by the Associated Press after racking up 1,087 yards and 17 touchdowns as a receiver, and running for another 240 yards and four touchdowns. The wideout is a three-star recruit, according to 247sports.com’s composite rankings, and finished the cycle as the No. 313 player in Florida and No. 288 wide receiver in the nation.
He kept his decision a secret to everyone but the Cyclones’ staff, his coaches in Bradenton and a handful of close friends. As recently as last week, the Spartans tried to make a late push for Milton, but the wideout was all but officially locked in with ISU with coaches traveling down from Ames, Iowa, on almost a weekly basis to meet with Milton.
When Booth finally arrived at Milton on Wednesday, he mentioned the elite company Milton shares with the Hurricanes. He’s the third Cane to record 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. The two others, Ace Sanders and Quenton Bundrage, both played in the NFL. Bundrage, the most recent 1,000-yard receiver, also played at Iowa State. Milton said he hasn’t talked to Bundrage yet, but hopes to before he joins the Cyclones.
“Quenton was obviously a tremendous player and it worked out for him,” Booth said. “This would be a new staff for Iowa State now, but he found success out there and, hopefully, Tarique will, as well.”
Milton was joined by three teammates inside Manatee High School’s auditorium, and those three are headed to the Football Championship Subdivision level. Quarterback A.J. Colagiovanni and linebacker Garrett Ware both signed with Stetson after both orally committed earlier this winter. Guard Seth Walter was honored for his commitment to Dartmouth, although players do not sign National Letters of Intent to Ivy League schools.
Colagiovanni was the trigger man for the Hurricanes’ high-powered offense and picked up first-team AP All-State honors because of it. The senior threw for 2,579 yards, 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions, and ran for 263 yards and three more touchdowns this fall to earn a spot on the Herald’s All-Area second team. He committed to the Hatters in December and a month later Ware opted to join him. The linebacker, who also played some tight end for the Canes, was a first-team All-Area selection by the Herald after leading the Canes with 112 tackles. He chose Stetson over Valparaiso, another FCS program.
“He’s one of my best friends and we started this journey together,” Colagiovanni said. “It’s awesome to be able to finish it. And just go and achieve our goals, and to be together throughout it all and also just to be able to keep working harder at the next level.”
Walter was the Hurricanes’ most reliable offensive lineman as a senior and even ran for a touchdown as a tight end this season. The first-team All-Area selection chose the Big Green despite interest from Navy and Florida International. He gives the Canes an Ivy commit in each of the past two seasons after specialist Nickolas Null headed to Cornell after last year.
“This is actually the first year of my coaching career that I’ve had so many that were Ivy League potential,” Booth said. “A.J. was an Ivy League-potential kid, Garrett and then certainly Seth. We’re excited about it. It’s such a great opportunity for them, just life after football.”