It's not often a high school library shuts down for a half hour in the middle of a school day, but that's exactly what happened at Jacksonville High School Wednesday morning, and for good reason.
The school's library was the location of Jacksonville's National Signing Day activities, with four young men, three football players and a soccer standout, having signed their official paperwork as to where they each would continue their respective educations and athletic careers.
The Tribe honorees included Claude Franklin, who is the son of Claude and Shawna Franklin; Justin Stewart, who is the son of James and Glenda Stewart; Lekendrick Anderson, who's parents are Latresha and Dwight Rivers and LeKeldrick Anderson; and Martin Melchor, who is the son of Maria Melchor.
Franklin, Stewart and Anderson will all be playing football for four-year colleges, with Melchor's sport being soccer.
Franklin, a wide receiver, will be attending Texas A & M Commerce (NCAA, Division II), while Stewart and Anderson both inked with East Texas Baptist University (NCAA,Division III) in Marshall.
Stewart is an offensive lineman and Anderson was recruited as a linebacker.
Melchor, who is one of East Texas' premier junior soccer players, signed with Coastal Carolina University (CCU), a NCAA Division I member who is nationally ranked.
CCU, located in Conway, SC, finished 19-5 last year which included going 9-1 in Big South Conference play, and went three rounds deep in the NCAA National Tournament.
Melchor became Jacksonville's first D-I soccer signee since 2005 when Josh Nannen played for the United States Air Force Academy.
Also in the 80's, Brandon Burgert (2002) represented the Indians in D-I soccer as a member of the Bradley University team.
Melchor was heavily recruited by a wide range of colleges, after playing well in the regional Olympic Development Program, including at least one more D-I school, Old Dominion University of Norfolk,VA.
In the end Melchor said it came down to CCU's success on the pitch that sealed the deal for him.
“Coastal Carolina is ranked No. 11 in the nation and they have won a couple of conference championships recently and I was impressed by that,” he said. “They (CCU) just lost a couple of center midfielders, which is the position I play, to Major League Soccer and I hope to be able to play in that league one day.”
Franklin said that Wednesday was a big day for him and he explained why he choose Texas A & M Commerce.
“This is an exciting day for me, one I have been dreaming about for a long time,” Franklin said. “I decided to got to A & M Commerce because they like to throw the ball all over the field and they like the bigger receivers to throw the ball to.”
Franklin said that he visited Texas A& M Commerce early on and immediately knew that that was the place for him.
Stewart said that he considered himself to be very fortunate to have a chance at playing college football.
“It means a lot to me to have this opportunity to further my football career,” he said. “ I think we (ETBU) open up against Texas A& M Commerce this fall, so it will be neat to go up against Claude (Franklin).”
Stewart, who said regardless of the level, that he enjoys getting out on the football field and “hitting some boys” stated that he probably will see time at left tackle along the ETBU offensive line.
Anderson said that growing up the more he played football, the more he enjoyed the sport and for that reason it was important to him to be able to play at the next level.
“Football is just such a big part of my life and something that I love,” he said.”I knew that no matter what I had to keep playing the game.”
Anderson said that the complete ETBU environment sold him on the school.
“ETBU has a great faculty and staff and their facilities are outstanding,” he said. “It a nice environment for me to be able to continue my education and play football in.”
Witnessing the signings Wednesday were each young man's family members, various class mates, coaches and various JHS administrators and teachers who seemingly looked on with a great sense of Indian pride.
NOTE: Special thanks to Todd Travis for his contribution to this story.