By Connor Mullins
Eight Eagles signed on Feb. 5 with HSU and one signed with ACU. Jaxon Smith, Khalil Spivey, Davanta Mayse, Dylan Wright, Jorge Hernandez, Colton Wilson, and Tre Phillips all signed with HSU on football scholarships and Aubrianna Salazar signed with HSU on a softball scholarship. Ryan Flanagan, the lone ACU signee, signed a preferred walk on offer (non-scholarship) for the Wildcats’ tennis program.
“I feel really comfortable whenever I go there,” Jaxon Smith, one of the seven HSU football signee, said. “It automatically felt like home and the coaches made me feel wanted.”
Smith, an offensive lineman, is ecstatic about next year and extremely ready to work hard for the Cowboys.
“I want to go all in and not hold anything back,” Smith said. “It’s really cool knowing I get to play with these guys for another four years and become even closer with them.”
The Eagles went 3-7 this past year, only winning two district games, putting them out of a playoff spot. Smith can’t wait for a fresh start at HSU.
“We’re gonna flush this past year,” Smith said. “These past three years have left a bad taste in my mouth and we’re gonna move on, grow, and get even better.”
Despite seven signing with HSU for football, the Eagles had a softball sign with the D3 school as well. Aubrianna Salazar, a pitcher, made her college decision official when she signed her letter of intent on February 5th.
“I picked HSU because of the atmosphere on the campus and on the field,” Salazar said. “The softball coach there is a ‘go getter’. I also want to be a physical therapist and after my four years I can apply to the Doctor of Physical Therapy school on campus.”
However, despite the physical therapy program at HSU being so strong, that is not the only reason she chose the school.
“I wanted to stay home for my family,” Salazar said. “The school also seeks God and thanks him for everything they are able to do which also played a part in my decision.”
The Lady Eagles Assistant Softball Coach Kinzie Willis had high praise for the star pitcher.
“Aubrianna is a true competitor,” Willis said. “She does anything we ask her to do. She is extremely coachable and very very powerful in what she does. She does a really good job for us.”
HSU was not the only school that wanted Salazar. Several other softball programs contacted Coach Willis regarding Aubrianna.
“There were several schools that wanted Aubrianna,” Willis said. “But she’s really interested in physical therapy, so that’s what she was looking for. Coach Naudin at HSU was adamant about her going there as well. There are a few other of our players there so she’ll do good there. It’ll be a good fit for her.”
Salazar is already thinking about what she can improve on as a player once she enrolls at HSU next year.
“When I get to HSU, I would like to improve my batting,” Salazar said. “I would like to be more efficient and maintain a good hitting score. I would like to improve my swing, and I feel like Coach Naudin at HSU would be able to help make my swing a lot better.”
HSU recruited AHS students very heavily, but the lone D1 school in town in ACU signed an Eagle as a preferred walk-on for tennis. Ryan Flanagan, despite this being his first year at AHS, was able to secure a preferred walk-on offer from the Wildcats.
“I’ve always wanted to go there even when I was at Abilene Christian School,” Flanagan said. “I know the coaches very well because I was coached by them when I was younger.”
Eagles Varsity Tennis Coach Stacy Bryan in her one year of coaching Ryan has been highly impressed.
“Ryan’s biggest strength, I believe, is his strength and determination,” Bryan said. “He gives 100% every time he steps on the court and his effort is unbelievable. There’s no doubt when he steps off the court that he gave it his all.”
Flanagan comes from a rich tradition of tennis in his family and has been playing since a young age.
“Ryan has a lot of experience,” Bryan said. “He started when he was young. Both his parents played college tennis and his brother was an outstanding player as well. When he was growing up, his parents played tennis with him a lot and I think that experience gives him an upper edge.”
Flanagan has done very well for the Eagles, most recently coming in 2nd place at a tournament in San Antonio on February 22nd.
“Ryan has gotten better and better
every time he steps on the court,” Bryan said. “He’s so good already but he’s
not reached his full potential. I know he’s gonna work really hard. I think
with Ryan anything is possible, I would not put limits on him. He has a whole
other level that I’m waiting to see.”
These athletes had highly successful careers as Eagles and look to carry this momentum forward at the collegiate level.