With his mother, classmates and the media looking on, highly recruited Sam Houston High School defensive end Javonte Magee started a new chapter in his promising football career Wednesday when he signed with Baylor.
While it was foggy and dreary outside, the atmosphere during a festive signing ceremony in the Sam Houston auditorium was electric. The school band kept the students rocking and cheering as they applauded the seven Sam Houston players who signed national letters of intent with colleges.
"This is everything I thought it would be and more," Magee said. "I've been thinking of this day for a long time. To finally sign is a dream come true for me."
Wednesday was the first day for high school seniors across the country to sign national letters of intent.
Sam Houston had two other players sign with Football Bowl Subdivision schools, safety Leo Thomas (Arizona) and defensive tackle Ralphael Green (Indiana).
Defensive back Gary Reed IV signed with Division II Incarnate Word, and lineman Prince Eshan, running back JeQuan McBride and lineman Melvin Ross signed with Cisco Junior College.
About 90 minutes later, Steele quarterback Tommy Armstrong was among six Knights who signed letters of intent in a similar ceremony --- sans the school band --- in the Steele auditorium Armstrong, who went 29-3 as Steele's starting quarterback the past two seasons, signed with Nebraska.
As he wrote his signature on the letter of intent, his mother, Nadine Armstrong, looked on from Mississippi via laptop. His father, Tommy Sr., and stepmother, Kelli, attended the assembly Wednesday morning.
"It's exciting," Armstrong Jr. said. "It's pretty much a new chapter in my life. Now I've got to keep moving forward and keep working hard each and every day, like I have been. Don't take a day off and improve on little things. I just want to go to Nebraska in the best shape I can be in."
Six Steele players sign with colleges
Armstrong helped lead Steele to the Class 5A Division II state championship in 2010 and the Division II state final last season.
"Tommy has unbelievable upside," Steele head coach Mike Jinks said. "The bottom line is that he can throw the football. But the thing that I think you can't bottle, you can't teach or coach, is that he is a fierce competitor and does everything to prepare himself mentally and physically."
Steele defensive end Eric Maus signed with the Air Force Academy, and four other other Knights, linebacker Devere Carrington (Angelo State), tight end Lee Henderson (Texas A&M-Kingsville), defensive back Evan Lyons (West Texas A&M) and offensive lineman Michael O'Neal (A&M-Kingsville) signed with Division II schools.
"When you've seen these guys grow up from boys to young men, and watched them mature and seen them through the good, the bad and the ugly, this is a neat moment," Jinks said. "I'm proud of them and happy for them."
A strong feeling of school and community pride made the signing ceremony at Sam Houston an uplifting experience for everyone in attendance.
Sitting behind Magee on the auditorium stage was Mary Griffin, who adopted Magee after he was abandoned by his mother when he was two weeks old.
Born in New Orleans, Magee moved to San Antonio in 2006 when his family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. A seventh-grader then, Magee attended Twain Middle School before enrolling at Sam Houston as a freshman in 2008.
"I'm very proud of him," Griffin said. "He has come a long way since those early days in New Orleans. We moved to San Antonio and we were blessed to become part of the Sam Houston community. The people here have been like family to Javonte. The coaches have cared about him and treated him like he was one of their own."
Magee eager to play for Baylor
Sam Houston coach Gary Green choked back tears when he introduced Griffin during the assembly.
Magee, who calls Griffin "my world and my life," said he's happy she will have a chance to watch him play regularly.
"I signed with Baylor because I felt I could make a difference there and that excites me," Magee said. "But it's also close to home and that will give my mother an opportunity to go to my games. I'm really looking forward to going up there and getting started.
"I want to try to play right away. I'm going to do what I've got to do. I just want to help out the defense. I know the defense needs help. That's why I want to get in there and make plays."
Baylor beat Washington 67-56 in the 2011 Alamo Bowl to finish 10-3. The Bears piled up 777 yards of total offense, but gave up 620 yards.
"Man, I was mad when I was watching the game," Magee said. "I wanted to get in there and play."
Magee, 6-foot-6 and 258 pounds, chose Baylor over Texas A&M and Missouri. A U.S. Army All-American, Magee was recruited by colleges throughout the country.
"It was crazy," Magee said of the recruiting grind. "It was hectic. I could barely get sleep. I'm glad it's over."
Coach Green and staff nurtured players like fathers
Magee and the other seniors on the 2011 team were incoming freshmen when Green succeeded Russell Tatum as head coach.
"I'm a proud papa, " Green said. "I started with these kids. They were the first kids that bought into it. They've been the hardest-working kids for the last four years, both academically as well as athletically."
Green and his assistant coaches have nurtured Magee and the other seniors with father-like guidance, helping them on and off the field.
"We've spent more time with these kids than we have our kids over the last four years," Green said. "But we get so much from it. We get so much back when we see them well on this side of the fence.
"Most of them, when we met them, had one foot on both sides and could have very well gone the opposite way. But through athletics and the bond that we've created with them, not only are they on this side, they're heading very fast in the right direction."
Green, an All-America cornerback at Baylor in 1976, chuckled when asked how he felt about his star player signing with the Bears.
"I always stay impartial," Green said. "I tell them what to look for. I always tell them, 'I would never tell you where to go because I don't want you to point your finger at me later on, saying, 'You told me to go there.'"
Green said Magee will help the Baylor defense "immediately."