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Fun-wise, national signing day is a signature event

There's so much to mock about a day with hours of breathless coverage as high school football players officially sign with their colleges.

February 06, 2013|Chris Erskine
  • Ray Lewis III and his father, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis Jr., make the U sign with their hands, after he signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Miami, where his father also played college football.
Ray Lewis III and his father, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis… (Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated…)

What fun, this national signing day, colleges' version of the NFL draft. Story I'm following most closely is of the Florida mom who reportedly ran off with her kid's signing papers so he wouldn't leave home.

As Dave Barry used to say, I'm not making this stuff up.

So much to mock on this overblown, overripe event, with 12 hours of breathless election-caliber coverage of the day when high school players officially sign with their colleges. Or in the case of the missing Florida mom, do not.

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Also, so much to love. The names alone have a certain entertainment value, not a Grabowski in the bunch.

Here, for instance, is my all-apostrophe team, culled from Wednesday's signings:

A'Shawn Robinson (Alabama).

Damore'ea Stringfellow (Washington).

John O'Korn (Houston).

Su'a Cravens (USC).

Or my all-Christmas team:

Ebenezer Ogundeko (Clemson).

Hodari Christian (West Virginia).

Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern).

Noel Padmore (Indiana), Noel Thomas (Connecticut), Noel Ellis (Texas A&M).

My overall best-names-of-the-day team:

Will Likely III (Maryland).

Dee Liner (Alabama).

Hipolito Corporan (Utah).

Montavious Smoke (Troy).

Kamari Cotton-Moya (Iowa State).

Chevoski Collins (Texas).

Truman Gutapfel (Boston College).

Some of these names will become very famous, almost half will fade into obscurity. Some are already famous; sons of Torii Hunter, Ray Lewis and Karl Malone all signed to play college football.

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For now, they all have their moment in the TV lights — in some of the sloppiest broadcasting handoffs you've ever seen.

Hold on, hold on, Jordan Cunningham, a promising young receiver from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., is about to address us.

The studio goes quiet. One of the studio hosts tees it up:

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ESPN announcer: "Jordan, the stage is yours, young man. Tell us where you'll play college football."

Jordan: "What was that?"

Announcer: "You're on ESPNU. Tell us where you'll play college football."

Jordan: "Sorry? This is where I decide?"

Announcer: "Hey man, you do whatever you want, but deciding would be a preference."

Jordan: "I'm currently working on a 50-year career plan that begins with me as a wide receiver. I will now choose the best of both worlds academically and athletically … Vanderbilt University."

Way to go, Jordan. You nailed it.

Sure, a lot of this stuff reads like a Dan Jenkins spoof. But there are also plenty of winsome little moments, like Jordan's speech, in which he says, "Football's gonna end at some point, and you've got to have a backup plan."

After a few hours of this, I just sit back and let the whole spectacle wash over me, tracking the mountain of tweets, the insane and insaner.

"Either you ROLL with US or get ROLLED over by US," tweets Alabama recruit Derrick Henry, who humbly dubs himself King Henry.

More morphine, please.

"Jealousy is the ugliest trait," tweets a Mississippi fan. "All y'all hating on Ole Miss because y'all couldn't even dream of pulling a class like this."

Tweet or not, that's just good writing. Faulkner lives.

By the way, the Southeastern Conference treats national signing day like revenge for indignities it suffered in the Civil War. Hence, the former capital of the Confederacy, Ole Miss, is having a huge day. And I think Alabama's Nick Saban, always a step or two ahead, just signed some kid in utero.

Meanwhile, USC is hemorrhaging recruits so badly that Coach Lane Kiffin should call out the National Guard. My new favorite verb: "decommit." Suggested usage: "I didn't bail on that dinner party. I merely decommitted." Guess committing isn't what it used to be.

Just remember how spotty all this is. The Trojans were ranked No. 1 before last season and from what I hear that didn't pan out all that well. The hopes, the dreams, the expectations of all these programs are all orchestrated by a bunch of coaches trying to guess how some 17-year-old might eventually fill out.

"This guy has the potential to put on a lot of weight," former coach Gene Chizik says of Ohio State recruit Vonn Bell. "He's got wide shoulders.…This guy will knock you out. This guy will come downhill, he can play in the box."

What? Whatever.

Leave it to Lou Holtz, football's Elmer Fudd, to give the best perspective, noting that half of all blue-chip recruits in Texas don't even end up lettering, and that Texas Christian and Boise State never have what are considered boffo recruiting classes, but still have consistently strong teams.

Meanwhile, in Florida, that mom is still missing in action, having run off with her child's signing papers, another indication that on national signing day there will always be some busted plays.

"Sounds like his momma has his speed and elusiveness," one fan teases on a message board. "Does she have eligibility?"

Twitter: @erskinetimes

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