For senior high school football players, National Signing Day is a big deal. It's the day they make a binding commitment to an NCAA program. And this week, WNPR was there as three Connecticut students made their choices known.
It's probably the only time of the year where a high school's library is "standing room only."
At Bloomfield High School, students and adults jockeyed for position in front of rows of long tables filled with spectators taking pictures. Three student-athletes sat at a table adorned with an orange "Bloomfield" banner.
When it was star wide-receiver Russell Thompson-Bishop’s turn, he cleared his throat and took the podium.
"I'm glad that you guys all came out here to see my signing," he said. "I’d like to officially sign to Syracuse University."
Thompson-Bishop is an unlikely success. He’s only played football since eighth grade, but his exceptional 40-yard dash times wowed area recruiters. But it hasn’t been easy.
"I wasn’t really a privileged child," he said. "I’ve been moved around a lot and probably the turning point of my life was my sophomore year. We got evicted from our apartment -- me, my mom, and my sister."
To stay enrolled in Bloomfield, Thompson-Bishop was taken in by friends. It gave him the consistency he needed and he’s hoping Syracuse can do the same.
"I’m going to Syracuse because the coaches definitely had a big difference how hard they recruited me," he Thompson-Bishop said. "It made me feel wanted—more wanted than any other school did."
Inside Windsor High School, a graphic with each recruit’s name and college choice filled a large projector screen behind the head table.
A Boston College logo was supposed to be featured next to defensive back Jason Pinnock’s photo, but he ultimately changed his mind. He said he felt the University of Pittsburgh better prepared him for a pro career.
"The relationship with the next level: the Pittsburgh Steelers," Pinnock said. "They share all the facilities and all that—athletic trainers. You get the best of the best."
And at Glastonbury High School, defensive lineman Jared Nelson made his announcement at 7:30 a.m. from the school's media center. Nelson is going to Villanova.
"You really can’t get a better mix of football and academics [than] where I am going," Nelson said.
According to GameTimeCT.com, 27 CIAC football players signed on with NCAA Division I schools in 2017. Last year, there were 45.