With graduation comes the next chapter in a young adult’s life.
For high school athletes, it can be a fork in the road and you don’t always have a say in which way you go.
Off the top of my head, I can think of seven local athletes (Cole Wiechring, Cole Andrus, Jarel Lilly, Aidan Borth, Colton Schuchart, Noah Gonzales and Mia Lopez) that are fortunate to get to continue their athletic careers.
Some want to keep playing and there may not be that chance. Some may get a walk-on spot, but that’s never a guarantee.
Being a walk-on is one of the hardest positions to fill. You are required to meet all the same standards as a scholarship athlete while also funding your own tuition. It takes an incredibly dedicated human being to do all of those things and it’s why most of the stories surrounding walkons earning scholarships are so triumphant. It’s a recognition of the hard work they’ve put in on and off the field.
Conversely, that moment when you realize your athletic career is over is one of the toughest for anyone. It can be difficult to come to grips with. I was a 22-year-old senior in college when that realization hit and it packed a punch like a young Mike Tyson.
With this column, I want to reflect on those athletes that may have had a chance to play at the next level, but aren’t for any a multitude of reasons.
I think about guys like Pleasanton standout Ashon Thompson. At the time of publication, Thompson has not announced any plans to play at the next level.
The 6-foot-tall cornerback led the Eagles in interceptions in both his junior and senior seasons. As a way to try to better himself, Thompson also joined the track team as a sprinter. All he did was break numerous school records and win the regional title in the 100-meter dash.
When I look at Thompson’s athletic ability, I hope he gets a chance as a walk-on at the next level. He has the capability to make an impact at either a Division II or III school like Texas A&M-Kingsville or Howard-Payne if he’s in the right program.
I think of Poteet’s Giovani Magirl, another cornerback, with phenomenal ability and who anchored Poteet’s secondary.
Magirl’s height alone should’ve made him a prospect to a number of coaches across the country. Then couple in his ball-hawking ability that helped Poteet to an 8-3 record and second place finish in District 14-3A DI and you’ve got a shoein for a spot on a college roster and maybe even a scholarship.
I think of Jourdanton’s Payton Gonzales, a floor general who guided the Indians to the regional semifinals for the first time in 13 years.
Gonzales has an IQ for the game that will serve him well in whatever he chooses to do next. He was a problem solver for the Indians during their historic run in 2021.
Staying in basketball, Pleasanton’s Kayli Kennedy even deserved a look as at the very least a walk-on.
Kennedy is another player that displayed a high basketball IQ for Pleasanton and Poteet before that. Her versatility to move between the post and small/power forward slots was a reason Pleasanton was in the middle of the playoff race this season.
But that’s not to dim the lights on the local athletes moving on to the next level.
Wiechring will play shortstop for Schreiner University in Kerrville.
The senior standout was pivotal to the Eagles run for their first district title under Head Coach Lance Standley. He led the team in batting average (.382) and doubles (8). He figures to be a big piece in the future for the Mountaineers.
Andrus, Lilly and Borth, all from Jourdanton, are set to continue their careers at DIII Texas Lutheran University.
Those three helped account for much of Jourdanton’s success in their first 11-win season in 50 years and first regional semifinal trip in 35.
Andrus and Lilly connected 85 times this year for 1,603 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Borth, who has fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in the area round of playoffs, had 850 yards of total offense and eight TD for Jourdanton this year.
Lopez was an alldistrict selection for the Squaws as a defensive specialist and will continue her athletic career at Colby Sawyer College in New Hampshire.
Gonzales will be competing at the Division I level after clearing 6 feet, 6 inches at the state meet to finish fourth. That attracted a walk-on spot by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
I can’t wait to see what these athletes do at the next level.