Congrats — and some history — to all signees

Congratulations to all the athletes who signed scholarships on National Signing Day. Congratulations to their families and their coaches.

But it’s like I told Jackson-area recruits this morning during a press conference at your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum: Now, the real work starts.

I don’t care if you were a five-star recruit or didn’t have any stars at all, your future in football will be determined over the next four or five years, not the last 17.

Walter Payton chose Jackson State over Kansas State. Jerry Rice chose Mississippi Valley State over Jackson State. Brett Favre chose Southern Miss over Delta State and Gulf Coast Community College. Archie Manning chose Ole Miss over Mississippi State and Tulane and nobody else. And I could go on and on and on. If he wanted to play quarterback, Steve McNair chose Alcorn over USM.

Right there we are talking about the second leading rusher in NFL history, the leading pass receiver and touchdown scorer in NFL history, the leading passer in NFL history, the patriarch of the first family of American football and the leading yardage producer in NCAA history — in that order.

There’s more. Take the last four C Spire Conerly Trophy winners. Austin Davis, a part-time starter as an NFL quarterback this past season, signed a baseball scholarship at USM and walked on in football. Bo Wallace was a two-star recruit who signed originally with Arkansas State and became the leading passer in Ole Miss history. Gabe Jackson chose State, his one SEC offer, over USM. Dak Prescott was a three-star recuit, and I wonder if there’s a State fan alive who would trade him for anyone who had four or five stars?

I doubt it.

This year’s seniors who didn’t get three, four or five stars — and even those who didn’t get four-year scholarships — shouldn’t hang their heads or think their careers are over.

Not long ago there was a Mississippi kid who didn’t get a single four-year offer and played junior college ball instead. After junior college, he received no D-I offers and played Division II football.

You know him. His name is Malcolm Butler and he was the hero of New England’s Super Bowl victory Sunday. There are stories like him all the time.

The scales will measure weight. The stopwatches will measure speed. The tape measure will tell you how high you can jump.

But nothing measures how hard you will work or what you will sacrifice to be the best you can be.

There were plenty of receivers quicker and faster than Jerry Rice. There were running backs bigger and faster than Walter Payton.

But, trust me on this, nobody worked harder than those two. Nobody. And none were more durable.

There were hundreds upon hundreds of defensive backs who signed four-year college scholarships five years ago, and none of them was named Malcolm Butler.

That’s just something to consider on National Signing Day. Everybody can claim victory today. But you can rest assured of this: Somebody who didn’t get headlines today and tomorrow, will make the biggest headlines three, four and even 10 years from now. That’s just the way it is.

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