Derrick Willies represented the area's biggest college signing Wednesday despite being more than 1,000 miles from home.
The morning after helping Team USA storm to victory at the International Bowl in Austin, Tex., the Rock Island wide receiver followed through on a commitment made last April, inking with the University of Iowa for a football scholarship.
Willies was among a handful of major-college recruits taking advantage of the high school all-star game's Football Signing Day Breakfast at The Renaissance Hotel.
The event was billed to be the country's largest signing ceremony on the first day of the NCAA's Winter Period for football, soccer, track and wrestling recruits to ink their National Letters of Intent.
Willies was among 20 Iowa football recruits signing across the country. Also a state hurdles champ last spring, Willies caught 56 passes for 877 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall for the Western Big 6 Conference champs.
With Willies signing in Texas, Rock Island won't need to host a signing ceremony later this week, said Rock Island athletic director Chris Cartee.
"I'll never forget the first time he came to our offices how impressed all of us were with him,'' Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said during a signing day press conference.
"He came to camp after that. We had already made our minds up, but he came to camp and did a nice job there, too, and had a good demeanor out there on the field.
"And (on) our home visit, I thought maybe he was trying to fake me out, but he was looking at some of his class work during the visit. He turned out a nice grade point average this last semester. Great attitude, tremendous young guy. I think he's really appreciative of the opportunities he's been presented with.''
Willies wasn't alone locally in that regard Wednesday.
Among a whopping 13 signings in a mass ceremony at Bettendorf were major-college recruits Mahnee Watts (Iowa track), Bubba Hernandez (Iowa State wrestling), Anna Peer (Nebraska track/cross country), Katie Moore (Arkansas soccer) and Megan Nickles (Missouri State track/cross country).
Assumption also saw Danielle Moore (Iowa State soccer) and Nick Schebler (Army football) sign with schools.
The biggest of six football signings at Muscatine was Drake Kulick (Drake). North Scott's Randy Schmidt (D-2 Northwest Missouri State) and Clinton's Jacob Judd (Western Illinois) also will play college football.
Three Pleasant Valley athletes also sign today, the biggest being football's Devin Daily with Northern Iowa.
Next week, Galesburg's Jonathan Mixon (Army football Monday) and Stephanie Saey (DePaul track and cross country Tuesday) will ink scholarship deals.
Moline's Jared Requet (William Penn football) inks an NAIA deal Friday.
Six United Township soccer players also have confirmed their college plans, though they won't sign until April. Laura Burrill (Illinois State), Drew Merideth (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville) and Caitlynne Terronez (Dubuque) will be joined then by Scott signees Mitchell Schneider, Todd Flamer and Cruz Sandoval.
-- Know of a local athlete headed to college to play sports? Share the good news by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (309) 757-4967.
WHERE THEY ARE GOING
-- Athletes from area schools and conferences signing with colleges this school term:
Football: Tyler Brooks, Muscatine (Iowa Western JUCO) Zack Clements, Muscatine (Iowa Western JUCO) Savion Coleman, Bettendorf (Iowa Central JUCO) Jon Crowe, Muscatine (D-3 Central of Iowa) Devin Daily, Pleasant Valley (Northern Iowa) Nick Heimendinger, Bettendorf (Iowa Western JUCO) Malique Hudson, Bettendorf (Iowa Central JUCO) Jacob Judd, Clinton (Western Illinois) Drake Kulick, Muscatine (Drake (preferred walk-on)) Tyler Lloyd, Muscatine (Iowa Western JUCO) Jonathan Mixon, Galesburg (Army) Jared Requet (NAIA William Penn) Nick Schebler, Assumption (Army) Randy Schmidt, North Scott (D-2 Northwest Missouri State) Jake Shoultz, Muscatine (Iowa Western JUCO) Max Weber, Muscatine (Iowa Western JUCO) Derrick Willies, Rock Island (Iowa)
Track/cross country: Caleb Drake, Pleasant Valley (NAIA Olivet Nazarene) Megan Nickles, Bettendorf (Missouri State) Anna Peer, Bettendorf (Nebraska) Stephanie Saey, Galesburg (DePaul) $-Mahnee Watts, Bettendorf (Iowa)
Baseball: @-Emilio Alonso, Moline/Southeastern JUCO (Black Hawk JUCO) @-Brinn Bell, Rock Island (Illinois St.) Matt Brill, Moline (Appalachian St.) Derek Burkamper, Muscatine (Nebraska) Dan Cutkomp, Alleman (John A. Logan JUCO) Dallas DeVrieze, Moline (Appalachian St.) Brandon Engler, North Scott (Black Hawk JUCO) Jake Friichenicht, Sherrard (Black Hawk JUCO) @-Seth Fuller, Moline/Western Illinois (Black Hawk JUCO/# Northern Illinois) Connor Gunneman, United Township (Parkland JUCO) Justin Hill, Bettendorf (Southeastern JUCO) Brian King, Sherrard (Black Hawk JUCO) Cal Moyer, Moline (NAIA Bryan) Terry Ogden, North Scott (Black Hawk JUCO) @-Dan Robinson, Sterling/Murray State (Black Hawk JUCO) x-Jake Scudder, Rock Island (Iowa Western JUCO) Cody Sedlock, Alleman (Illinois) Justin Shaffer, Durant (Black Hawk JUCO) *-Jake Sharp, Alleman (Iowa) Matt Ulrich, Bettendorf (Three Rivers JUCO) Jake Viaene, Moline (Black Hawk JUCO) Cam Wernentin, Bettendorf (Carl Sandburg JUCO) Drew Wescom, Assumption (Black Hawk JUCO)
Softball: Megan Butler, Muscatine (D-2 Upper Iowa) Jordan de los Reyes, Moline (Illinois St.) Kaitlyn Finneran, Morrison (Drake) Holly Hoelting, Pleasant Valley (Western Illinois) Sarah Kennedy, Bettendorf (D-2 Augustana (South Dakota)) Chloe Miller, Pleasant Valley (Wisconsin) Sadie Mosher, Riverdale (Lincoln Land JUCO) Hope Scheffert, Dav. North (Iowa St.) #-Riley Strandgard, Sherrard (Illinois St.) @-Kayla Tatge, Sherrard/Kirkwood (NAIA St. Ambrose) ^-Lecy Waldbusser, Moline (D-3 Monmouth)
Basketball: Billy Daniel, Assumption (D-2 Truman State) #-Ethan Happ, Rockridge (Wisconsin) Leti Lerma, Muscatine (Bradley) Kaycee Kallenberger, Pleasant Valley (Eastern Illinois) Jamie VanWatermeulen, United Township (D-3 Augustana) Jennifer VanWatermeulen, United Township (D-3 Augustana)
Wrestling: Bubba Hernandez, Bettendorf (Iowa State) B.J. McGhee, Rock Island (Missouri) Kyle Springer, Assumption (Indiana)
Volleyball: Erin Mead, North Scott (NAIA St. Ambrose) Megan Paustian, Pleasant Valley (Kirkwood JUCO) Elizabeth Schindler, Princeville (Illinois Central JUCO) Josie Weber, Princeville (Black Hawk East JUCO)
Swimming: Haden Calegan, Muscatine (Pittsburgh) Travis Greenwald, Muscatine (Denver) Keanu Interone, Sterling (Utah) Gabby Stecker, Pleasant Valley (Illinois)
Golf: Anna Cullinan, Pleasant Valley (Western Illinois) Laurel Enstrom, Rock Island (D-2 St. Cloud St., Minn.) Adam Hutton, Muscatine (NAIA St. Ambrose) *-Spencer Jones, Davenport North/Black Hawk (NAIA St. Ambrose) Emily Thomas, Moline (Rend Lake JUCO)
Rowing: Jennifer Rahn, Sterling (Iowa)
$-Track only; ^-Also playing golf; *-Junior college transfer from Black Hawk; @-Transfer from another college; x-Note: 2012-13 verbal commitments; #-Note: 2013-14 verbal commitments.
Today is Sunday, March 9, the 68th day of 2014. There are 297 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done to sidewalks, shade trees, fences and gardens by hogs that are running at large about town. 1889 -- 125 years ago: H.C. Cleveland was elected air knight captain of Rock Island Division Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias. 1914 -- 100 years ago: B.W. Wilson, authority on birds and their habits, spoke at the weekly luncheon at the Rock Island Club. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The famous Dionne quintuplets have been invited to visit King George and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on May 22, but Papa Dionne thinks their majesties should include the Callander nursery in their tour. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ever been smothered by funny stuff? Well more than 2,600 people were last night when two boys named Tom and Dick Smothers took a "rocky, twisting road to folk music" in Davenport Masonic Temple. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Moline residents soon may be asked to recycle part of their garbage and might even get paid for it.