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Miller: Signing day is time to appreciate potential, achievement
SANTA ANA – One called herself “super nervous” but also “super happy.”
Another said she saw her hand trembling even though she was doing the most routine of things – writing her name.
A third said he felt himself shaking as he walked into the school’s gym, something he had done hundreds of times before, usually without feeling much of anything.
“At first, I thought maybe I was cold,” MJ Cage explained. “I was nervous like before a game, just not quite as bad.”
Potential can be a powerful thing, capable of moving individuals, sometimes even without their consent.
The sight, like it was here at Mater Dei High, can be an awesome one, all those promising tomorrows neatly stacked up, ready to be toppled in the innocent and youthful pursuit of a dream.
And it all began – officially, at least – Wednesday, when dozens of Orange County kids, kids raised on touch screens and possessing the most flexible and dexterous of thumbs, expressed themselves with old-school, pen-to-paper signatures.
Something we all did as kids, probably originally with crayons.
National Letter of Intent day is supposed to be all about the future. But the occasion sure does impact the present, as well.
“It’s a good kind of nervous, though,” Aislinn Light said. “You’re just excited. Hey, I’m basically signing my future away here.”
Cage and Light were among 15 students who participated in the signing ceremony at Mater Dei, boys and girls alike in sports ranging from basketball to swimming to lacrosse.
The fact these events happen at schools all over the county isn’t the most impressive thing, either. The most impressive thing is these events happen at schools all over the county as many as three times a year.
That’s an enormous amount of potential, enough promise to fill nearly too many tomorrows to count.
Before giving up on where this world is heading and how quickly it’s heading there, try glancing at the nearest high school field, court or diamond. Things really aren’t that bad.
“It’s a dream come true for me to say I’m going to college, I’m going to play at the collegiate level and play the sport I love,” said Mater Dei’s Priscilla Martinez, whose softball career will continue at George Washington. “It’s just such an exciting day.”
They sat behind a long table on the gym floor, opposite family, friends and teammates seated in the bleachers, looking at handmade signs of congratulations and balloons and, in some cases, life-sized cardboard cutouts of their own smiling faces.
They listened to school president Patrick Murphy urge everyone to take photos and shoot video, before he reminded them to remember to thank all the people who helped place them at that table.
“It’s just a blessing to be able to have a scholarship and be able to go to college and play basketball,” said Cage, who signed with Oregon. “My goal is to make it to the NBA. But, if I don’t, I’m still going to get a degree from a great school.”
As much as this day represented a new start for these kids all over Orange County, it also marked a moment to reflect on the journey so far, a journey that, for Mater Dei basketball player Ally Rosenblum, included a broken back her freshman year.
It’s impossible to calculate the distance from there to UCLA, where Rosenblum will play next year. But there’s no questioning she has something in common with Cage, who, like his father, Michael, a former NBA player, is also known for his ability to rebound.
“She’s such a tremendous, inspirational story,” Coach Kevin Kiernan told the crowd, before he turned and looked at Rosenblum. “Nobody knows but you how hard it was to come back, and we’re really proud of you.”
And with that came a cheer from one particular section in the stands, a small pocket of love and support that included a sign reading “Rosen Bruin.”
They’ve all performed at high levels, of course, and I’d love to note everything that Light, just as another example, has done to date. But there isn’t nearly enough room.
Just understand that she has set a lot of swimming records at Mater Dei and, now bound for Cal, could be heading to the next Olympic trials, too.
“When you’re doing your sport, you don’t really realize what achievements you’ve accomplished,” she said. “You’re trying to do it for your own goals. To hear everything that’s happened so far is empowering, really.”
Empowering and, when assembled in one place like it was here, powerful. And this was just one of several Orange County schools that had students signing letters of intent Wednesday.
For many, the real notoriety is just beginning. And, honestly now, what better way to initiate the process than by honoring the request for an autograph?
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