ATHENS — Kendall Sanders walked into the lecture hall, sat down and signed his next four years away. He then took a few photos, got up and left the table.
No need to surprise the masses with a melodramatic unveiling of a ball cap. There’s no doubt where the Athens senior wants to play college football.
Sanders signed a national letter of intent with the University of Texas on Wednesday morning in front of family, classmates and AHS faculty. The signing caps one of the most celebrated football careers in AHS history.
“I just feel blessed and happy this day came,” Sanders said.
Sanders, set to play receiver for the Longhorns, was joined by two offensive lineman teammates in inking scholarships. Joe Hale officially pledged with Tyler Junior College, while Cameron Bailey is set to attend Trinity Valley Community College.
“This is a great day in Hornet nation,” Athens head coach Paul Essary said. “I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
For Sanders, the accomplishments have piled up over the years. After helping lead the Hornets to their best season in program history in 2010, the all-around athlete was recently named the Defensive MVP at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
He gives Texas a pair of All-Americans from the area in the 2012 signing class, including Van linebacker Dalton Santos.
“I’m ready to be a Longhorn,” said Sanders, who originally made an oral commitment to Oklahoma State before switching to Texas in early December. “I just want to thank everyone in here for helping me get to where I am today.”
Listed at 6-1, 175 pounds and running a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, Sanders is considered the sixth-best recruit in the state and the 39th-best in the nation.
Meanwhile, Hale and Bailey followed Sanders in taking individual photos and making statements at the signing table.
Hale, who competed in the Max Emfinger’s Eighth Annual All-American Bowl last month, referred to his dad, Hornets assistant coach Scott Hale.
“I would just like to thank everybody here,” coach Hale said. “Things happen for a reason, and we believe that.”
Bailey orally pledged with Baylor at the beginning of the recruiting process, but is excited about staying home and playing for TVCC.
“I want to thank everybody, especially my family and friends who helped me get here,” Bailey said. “It’s been a long road, and a hard road.”