OKEECHOBEE — National signing day has become a huge sports story around the nation and at least for one year, was a big story at Okeechobee High School.
The school honored eight seniors who signed to play college athletics and earned scholarships Wednesday.
Football players Bubba Fludd, University of Southern Mississippi, Andravious Stallworth, Webber International University, Joseph Benjamin, Warner University, Deshon Wellington, Greenville College, and Mateo Vasquez, Arizona Western, were joined by baseball standout Baron Stuart,
South Florida State College, and softball players Raylee Coleman, South Florida State, and Taylor Amadon, Broward College, at the ceremony held in the high school lecture hall.
Fludd had locked on to the University of Southern Mississippi since they attended the spring game at Okeechobee High School last May.
“It’s a great feeling. You can’t find better coaches than the University of Southern Miss. It’s a blessing and I want to thank God, my mother and my older brother, Al Fludd,” he said.
Fludd said USM coaches were in constant contact, built a relationship and showed they wanted him. He also has family in the area.
“I think they will help me get a free education and possibly get into the NFL,” he said.
Fludd will likely serve as a slot receiver at USM.
USM described Fludd as an athlete on their signing list of 25 new players. He was recently named all-state in Class 6A. Fludd finished his senior year with 765 yards rushing and 735 yards passing with 18 touchdowns. He had nearly 1,300 total yards and 19 touchdowns as a junior. He was considered a two-star athlete by both Rivals and Scout.
The Golden Eagles compete in Conference USA. In 2016, they finished (7-6) and won the Carriers New Orleans Bowl over the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, 28-21.
Stallworth excelled as a senior at cornerback for the Brahmans and recently visited Webber International. He came away impressed with the size and beauty of the campus and decided that was where he needed to be.
“Today meant a lot. I came a long way for this opportunity and it meant the world,” he added.
Stallworth said he hopes to contribute to the offense and special teams at Webber in Lake Wales. He also thanked his coaches for helping him to improve his skills.
“I took a lot of time out of their life and we just worked together and got things done,” he explained.
The Warriors finished (4-4) last year and compete as an independent in the Sun Conference.
Benjamin decided on Warner University because he wanted to get an education, continue to play football, and get closer to God. The college is affiliated with the Church of God and is located near Lake Wales.
“It feels great. I want to thank God, my coaches and my teammates. It was a great opportunity to play at OHS,” he noted.
Benjamin said the team accomplished a lot with an 8-2 record, a trip to the playoffs, and the best regular season record of any team in the 90 years of OHS football.
“I think this college is a great opportunity to keep on track with the Lord,” he added.
Benjamin could play on the offensive or defensive lines. The Royals finished (8-2) last year. They compete as an NAIA school with membership in the Sun Conference.
Wellington called signing day a ‘surreal experience.’ He said he was thankful for his mother and his coaches and what they have done for him.
The Panthers finished (2-8) last year and competed in NCAA Division III football.
“I like that the town reminded me of Okeechobee. Everybody is close knit and the football team is a brotherhood. The coaches liked the way I tackled and told me I can compete for a spot there. I love to compete,” he said.
Vasquez will join the Arizona Western Matadors in the fall. The Matadors, (11-1), reached the National Junior College Athletic Association Championship Game last year before losing to Garden City, Kan.
Spring sports not left out of college signings
OKEECHOBEE — Raylee Coleman decided to follow in her brothers footsteps, Taylor Amadon decided to head to Fort Lauderdale and Baron Stuart opted to stay close to home, as they made decisions this week on where they will play college athletics.
Coleman and Amadon represent Okeechobee softball while Stuart is a standout on the baseball diamond for the Brahmans.
Coleman decided to go to South Florida State College in Avon Park just like her brother Kevin did two years ago.
Raylee said she was thrilled to get this opportunity.
“It just feels really good to be able to make it to the next level. My hard work paid off. All the coaches did a good job with me,” she said.
Coleman said she liked the fact that Avon Park is close by, is a small town like Okeechobee and won’t be a big climate change for her.
Coleman said she is ready to have a strong senior season on the softball field.
“We host districts this year and I think we have a pretty good team. I think we will have a pretty good season,” she said.
Coleman got to share the moment with Amadon, who has played all four years with Raylee. Coleman said both are mirror images because they always work hard at practice, at workouts and during games.
“I was really proud of her and it was her dream to play at the next level. It is really nice to make our dreams come true at the same time,” she added.
Amadon said she felt she accomplished a lot with this college scholarship. She admitted the time flew by in the past four years.
“It has been an amazing four years. I’ve worked really hard with softball on and off the field. To be able to go and play more and follow my dreams is really a true blessing,” she continued.
Amadon said the Broward coaches liked her versatility and her willingness to play anywhere on the softball field. She specializes at third base but is willing to do what is best for the team.
“I will play wherever they tell me to play because I love the game that much,” she added.
Amadon said this decision will help her to relax, not worry, and simply enjoy her senior year in softball.
“I have a lot off my shoulders. I’ll be more comfortable and I hope to have a really good season,” she said.
Amadon said life in the big city will show her what it’s like and make her future decision on where she might like to live.
Stuart decided to stay close to home at SFSC because of pitching coach Mark Ward and his respect for long-time Panther coach Rick Hitt.
“I have a pretty good relationship with coach Ward and I think he’s a good pitching coach. Coach Hitt is a really good coach in my opinion and they have a pretty good program. I just want to go over there and win some games for him,” he added.
Stuart said he could pitch and play first base for the Panthers. He also has high expectations for the Brahman baseball team this year.
“I think this year we have a stout team. There is a different feeling around the team this year. OHS has been known for its pitching but if we start clicking offensively, I think we’ll have a pretty good ball club,” he said.
Stuart also thanked the high school for putting on the signing day ceremony for the players.
“I don’t think this has been done before. We had eight kids up here and it was pretty intense. I think this may go down in history for the number of kids who signed,” he added.
Charles M. Murphy is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News