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25 athletes sign college letters of intent (photo gallery, video)


More than two dozen CMSD student-athletes came together to sign their college letters of intent Wednesday morning, lining up at a long table set up in the former East High auditorium.

The 25 young men – 13 from Glenville, 11 from the John Hay Campus and one from John F. Kennedy – also joined a long line of Cleveland sports stars that have leveraged high school fame into a college education. That pipeline was in the national spotlight recently when Ohio State won the national championship behind Ginn Academy graduate and Glenville High football star Cardale Jones.

But just like Jones, who emphasized academics over sports by deciding to return to OSU for his degree instead of declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft, many of the two dozen Cleveland high school stars talked about books more than basketball, about physics more than football.

Isiah Noel, a senior basketball player at John Hay who will attend Grand Valley State in Michigan, said he and other high school athletes drew inspiration from Jones, even as he delayed what might have been millions of dollars to play professional football.

“I would love to play basketball in the NBA,” said Noel.  “But I also want to get a great education. Cardale showed he was thinking long term, not just short term, and that’s exactly what our coaches and teachers are always emphasizing to us.”

Noel, 18, carries an A average and intends to study business at Grand Valley. “I feel like that gives me more options after graduation because I’m not yet sure how I’m going to use it,” he said.

Fellow basketball player Tariq Fields of John Hay sat next to him, nodding in agreement.

“At John Hay, I feel as if they tell as to go hard in the weight room and to go hard in the classroom,” said Tariq, who signed his letter of intent to go to Muskingum College, where he will study psychology. He has a 3.4 grade-point average.

CMSD Chief Operating Officer Patrick Zohn emphasized the opportunities that exist beyond the limited number available in professional sports. He pointed out that the American Medicine Association has 250,000 members, the American Bar Association has 400,000 and the Society of Professional Engineers has about 135,000.

“You can go on to have an impact in many ways,” Zohn said.

District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon and Athletic Director Leonard Jackson commended the athletes – 20 football players, four basketball players and one golfer – for their exploits on the field and in the classroom. The CMSD group was among more than 100 Northeast Ohio athletes (mostly football players) announcing their intent Wednesday, according to a live blog.

As a group, they signed letters of intent to attend 19 different colleges, from Big Ten schools like Illinois (Glenville football player Frank Sumpter), to Mid-American Conference schools like Kent State (John Hay football player Mylik Mitchell) and Ohio University (Glenville football player Sam McKnight) to little-known sites like Bethany College (John Hay basketball player Devin Smith).

For the first time in recent memory, there were no recruits from Glenville signing on to play football for Ohio State. Last year, four Tarblooders turned Buckeyes, the latest in a long line that has included Jones, Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, Cleveland Browns safety Donte Whitner and Ted Ginn Jr. 

Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. said the national sports media might focus on that fact, but he is more interested in finding a spot for as many students as possible. A total of 80 student-athletes have earned scholarships to universities since 2002, according to reports, but dozens and dozens of others have gone to college for academics alone.

“The media and the analysts can talk about that, but I want to talk about life,” he said. “We love sending young men to Ohio State, of course, but it doesn't matter what college – what matters is that they get their education.”

Ginn said about 80 percent of Ginn Academy graduates enroll in college each year.

JFK had a single representative, football player Ronald Salters, who signed an letter of intent to play at Notre Dame College. Salters, a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes who will study physical therapy, was called a “mentor to the other players” by first-year JFK football coach Christopher Hubbard.

“As an alumnus of JFK, this is as proud a moment as I could ever have,”said Hubbard, whose uncle preceded Ted Ginn Sr. as head coach at Glenville. "I'm all about CMSD through and through, both in athletics and in academics. We'll have more kids up here in the future."

John Hay's group also included golfer Marcus Wynn, who shot an average of 78 for 18 holes in his senior year. He will go to Jackson University to study computer engineering.