Three days after the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever, the Temple Wildcats football program delivered its own version of dominant defense on National Signing Day.
Seniors Tre Colbert, Phillip Haskins, Chris Hooper, D’Ashton Merida and Monto President Jr. — almost half the Wildcats’ starting defense — solidified their college futures Wednesday afternoon in a festive ceremony outside Wildcat Gym.
Temple’s NCAA Division II signees were tackle Colbert with Angelo State, linebacker Hooper and safety President with Southwestern Oklahoma State and end Merida with Northwestern Oklahoma State. Haskins, a tackle, committed to join Belton-based powerhouse Mary Hardin-Baylor, winner of two of the last three Division III national championships.
“It’s good, because at one point in time I was on offense,” Colbert said. “I was glad to be moved to defense and see all these defensive players I grew up with being able to sign.”
Said Hooper: “I’m really proud of that. I feel it’s well-deserved.”
Coach Scott Stewart’s football quintet was complemented by girls track sprinter Rhea Miles, who signed with Division I Incarnate Word of San Antonio, and boys cross country runner Marc Anthony Chavez, who committed to D-III Johnson & Wales of Providence, R.I.
Wednesday’s five football commitments increased Temple’s Class of 2019 total to eight. Quarterback Jared Wiley (Texas), defensive end TJ Franklin (Baylor) and cornerback Markel Reed (Boise State) finalized their choices Dec. 19 during the early signing period.
“This could be one of the largest signing classes Temple’s had,” Wildcats offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Josh Sadler told the assembled crowd. “The guys in this class were freshmen when I first got here, and I’ve seen them change from young boys into grown men.”
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound Colbert is Temple’s only Division II signee who won’t be leaving Texas. The first-team All-District 12-6A performer will join Angelo State’s Rams, who last season were 6-6 overall and 4-4 in Lone Star Conference action.
“When I went there for my visit, it just felt like home to me,” said Colbert, who plans to study pediatric nursing in San Angelo. “They like my height and strength and being able to defeat double-teams.”
Temple will be prominent on Southwestern Oklahoma State’s 2019 roster. Former Wildcats receiver D’Yonte Heckstall redshirted as a Bulldogs freshman last fall, and Temple graduate Jermaine Townsend transferred to the Weatherford, Okla., school after the offensive lineman played two junior college seasons at Trinity Valley. They’ll be joined by skilled defenders Hooper and President.
“I feel like God blessed me with another opportunity to play football again. It’s a great feeling,” said the 6-foot, 195-pound President, a three-year star who was Temple’s Defensive MVP as a senior. “(SWOSU’s) coaching staff has the right plan. I felt like it’s time for me to get away.”
President, who plans to study kinesiology and become a coach, chose the Bulldogs over offers from Texas-Permian Basin and Kilgore.
Sure-tackling linebacker Hooper (6-1, 217), a two-year starter, gravitated toward SWOSU’s “family atmosphere.”
“The coaches make you feel comfortable. There’s a lot of energy and you can get a really good education,” said Hooper, who plans to study law.
Hooper, President, Heckstall and Townsend will become rivals of Merida when he arrives in Alva to play for Northwestern Oklahoma State’s Rangers. Although undersized (6-0, 230) for an end, the two-year starter carved out a productive, successful career and seeks to continue progressing at NWOSU.
“They’re pretty much just like Temple High School. You have to earn everything,” said Merida, who plans to study business accounting and entrepreneurship.
Two-year starter Haskins (5-11, 310) had an offer to join Colbert at Angelo State, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stay close to home and compete for national titles at reigning Stagg Bowl champion UMHB, where coach Pete Fredenburg’s Crusaders are known for playing stingy defense.
“I’m going into an excellent program and they already have the foundation down. I’m just ready to help them win,” said Haskins, who wants to study kinesiology and become a physical therapist. “I’m ready to work and show the coaches what I can do.”
Miles’ signing extends Temple’s track pipeline to Incarnate Word of the Southland Conference. The Cardinals’ roster includes four Temple graduates: women’s senior sprinter Tiffani Mays and senior long-distance runner Deion Hardy and the sprinting Cole brothers — senior Clinton and junior Isaac — on the men’s squad.
“They told me they all have a great bond there and the coaches are very friendly. They have a good program not only with track but also academics,” said Miles, who plans to study business marketing at UIW.
Miles’ personal-best times are 25.72 seconds in the 200-meter dash and 56.9 in the 400. Having competed in three regional meets, her goal this spring is to earn her first state appearance.
Chavez is an interesting story in that he didn’t run cross country until his senior year, having previously played three soccer seasons. Temple coach David Melvin praised the improvement Chavez made, helping the Wildcats advance to their fourth consecutive regional meet.
“This was his first year to come out for cross country, and when you have passion and heart and work ethic, you can push yourself to great things,” Melvin said.
Chavez said his girlfriend recommended Johnson & Wales as a good college, so he applied last September and in November was accepted into its health and science program.
“Then I contacted the coach and turned in my time, which is 17:25 for 3 miles,” Chavez said. “He said he’s looking forward to having an incoming freshman with a fast time.”