Etiwanda student athletes sign with major colleges

Today is your big day. Today, you finally get to sign with your dream college to play the sport you love. Everything seems lively and positive, as your peers also are excited to play college atheltics. And on top of all of that, your proud family is all around you, congratulating you on this wonderful accomplishment.

This is how seniors Keon Stephens, Emily Conner, and many other Etiwanda High School athletes felt on National Signing Day, where local talented student athletes sign a scholarship to play their respective sport at the next level.

On Feb. 4, major colleges such as Montana State, Arizona State and Cal Poly Pomona signed up-and-coming athletes from Etiwanda. The athletes that were signed included Keon Stephens, who plays football and signed with Montana State; Emily Connor, who plays soccer and signed with Cal Poly Pomona; Khaylan Thomas, who plays football and signed with Arizona State; Michael Neal, who plays football and signed with the University of Washington; Deshawn Fortune, who plays football and signed with San Jose State; Sommer Larrabee, who plays soccer and signed with Cal Poly Pomona; Idalys Martinez, who plays soccer and signed with CSUSB; Kameron Edwards, who plays basketball and signed with Pepperdine University; Jordan Naughton, who plays basketball and signed with University of Wyoming; and Kyle Isbel, who plays baseball and signed with University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Stephens, who plays in the position of wide receiver for the Etiwanda football team, signed with Montana State after considering signing with Portland State College, New Mexico State College, and Sac State College.

“I feel really blessed because there is about one percent of football players that receive Division 1 scholarships, and to be a part of that one percent is indescribable,” Stephens said. “The most memorable part of the signing was probably the feelings I had. I haven’t felt that happy and relieved in so long.”

Stephens said his family had not been together in a long time, and to bring them closer through an event like him signing with Montana State was amazing.

“It felt like I was finally getting a break in my life,” Stephens said. 

According to Stephens, Montana State was his best option because of its location. Not only had he already been to Montana to see the school, but he knew it was the best choice because of Montana State’s large fan base, and because in the small town of Bozeman.

“There is nothing to do but stay focused on school and football” Stephens said.

Stephens states that in Montana, he expects he will grow both as an athlete and a person, as he will be leaving all of his friends and family and will have to face new challenges in football.

“I expect to mature because I am going to be far from my hometown, family and friends, and I will have to make decisions on my own,” Stephens said.

Connor, a soccer defender, said she had similar feelings on signing with Cal Poly Pomona. She also considered University of California, Santa Cruz, or Knox College and Trinity Christian College in Chicago, but eventually decided to sign with Cal Poly Pomona.

“I chose Cal Poly Pomona because it is a great school and they have an amazing soccer program,” Connor said. “On top of all that, it will also be close to home, so it will be nice being able to see my family now and then. I’m a big family person.”

According to Connor, the best part of signing was making the deal official.
“It made me really happy to know that I was going to continue my soccer career,” Connor said. “It is a pretty big accomplishment to play a college sport, so I was in shock that I was able to have the chance to play.”

Connor also noted that she knew that Cal Poly Pomona was the right choice because of the approval of her parents.

“They are part of the reason I’m here,” Connor said. “I could not thank them enough for everything they have done.”

The prosperous female athlete stated that her parents helped further her soccer career through various deeds such as driving her to the constant practices, games, tournaments, and road trips.

“They have been there every step of the way,” Connor said. “They are amazing.”

Dave Kleckner, the head coach of Etiwanda’s Varsity Boys’ Basketball team, said something like college signing day that involves well known colleges and notable athletes is good for a school like Etiwanda because it can bring publicity to the athletic programs.

“There is a lot of athletes that are capable of doing what [current athletes] have done, and that is good for the future because the younger generation can come and see us knowing that if they work hard enough, they can too work hard enough to sign with a Division 1 university,” Kleckner said.

—Ty Koslowski