Six senior athletes at Oak Ridge High School were honored during National Signing Day at Oak Ridge High School on Wednesday.
The six athletes, their sports, and the schools they will attend are:
- Jake Etheridge—cross country, University of Tennessee in Chattanooga;
- Alex Sherles—vollebyall, East Tennessee State University;
- David Dunn—rowing, Stanford University;
- Leah Scudder—soccer, Erskine College;
- Kyndall Clark—football, Gardner-Webb University; and
- Tee Higgins—football, Clemson University.
National Signing Day is the first day that high school seniors can sign a binding letter of intent with NCAA schools, ORHS Athletic Director Mike Mullins said.
There was an early signing period in November. Etheridge and Sherles signed then.
The February signing is usually reserved for football and soccer, while the November signing includes many other sports, Mullins said.
The Wednesday ceremony in the Oak Ridge High School Auditorium was more elaborate than previous singing day celebrations.
Etheridge, who has competed in cross country and track, led the Oak Ridge Wildcats to a third-place finish in the state boys’ cross country meet on November 5. He finished 11th among the 181 top male runners from across Tennessee in the large Class AAA high schools. That was an All State finish.
Etheridge has raced at state four years, and he said he moved up in the standings each year.
He placed first in the Region 2-AAA meet in Knoxville on October 27.
He was also on the 4×800-meter relay team that qualified for the state Class AAA track meet on May 27.
Oak Ridge volleyball coach David Kolodney said Sherles, a power hitter, is a natural leader and a great teammate.
“She’s a leader on the court and off the court,” Kolodney said.
Sherles has compiled extraordinary player statistics on the volleyball court, but Kolodney said he wanted to focus on her personality.
Rowing coach Evelyn Redford said Dunn is the fastest athlete to have come through the Atomic Rowing program in Oak Ridge. He was a team captain and selected for the junior national team in the USRowing Team Selection Camp.
Scudder, who has played a few different positions, was described as one of the most competitive athletes the athletic staff has seen at Oak Ridge. Soccer coach Jeff Trombly said she had 18 goals and five assists, was named to the All State and All Region teams, and was named most valuable player in District 3-AAA.
Clark, a linebacker, has been regularly described as “having a good nose” for football.
“The guy has an uncanny knack,” Oak Ridge Coach Joe Gaddis said.
Clark was the top tackler for the Wildcats his junior and senior years. In the past two seasons, he led the team in fumbles caused and fumbles recovered.
He also led in interceptions and fumbles returned for touchdowns, Gaddis said.
Clark was named All Region his junior and senior years and was named All State his senior year.
Higgins was described as one of the most decorated athletes to come through Oak Ridge. His skills have been recognized both on the football field and on the basketball court. He’s been ranked as a top national prospect in football.
Gaddis said Higgins never changed even as he became famous nationally.
“If he did, I never saw it,” Gaddis said.
Instead, the national acclaim made Higgins work harder and want to get better, Gaddis said.
He cited a long list of honors and accomplishments for Higgins: All Region his sophomore, junior, and senior years; most valuable player in the region as a junior and senior; All State as a sophomore, junior, and senior; the single-season leader in receiving yards, receptions, and touchdown receptions; and the leader in receptions and career receiving yards.
Higgins is the only Oak Ridge player to ever be selected for the Under Armour All-America Football Game. It was in Orlando on New Year’s Day, January 1.
Gaddis also marveled at Higgins’ catches, even in practice. He recalled one “laser shot” that was thrown behind Higgins on a slant route. Higgins caught it with one hand, Gaddis said.
“He makes the most unbelievable circus catches,” Gaddis said. That’s applied in games, where fans have seen his leaping catches, sometimes one-handed, and in practice.
Higgins won a Tennessee Titans Mr. Football award for the second year in a row in November. He’s the first Oak Ridge football player to win the award in back-to-back years.
Higgins, who is 6-foot-5, had 64 catches for 945 yards and 17 touchdowns during the regular season and first-round playoff game against Walker Valley, which ended Oak Ridge’s season, according to a compilation of preliminary statistics prepared after each game by Mark and Shawna Haste. Higgins became the all-time leader in career receiving yards for the Wildcats during the season-opener against Clinton.
He has also been a Mr. Basketball finalist. He was selected as a finalist in Class AAA in February 2016.
“In my 42 years, Tee Higgins is not only the best athlete I’ve ever coached, but also the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” Gaddis said.
Higgins said he selected Clemson, which won the national title this year, because of its family feel, the coaches, and the Christianity on campus.
Dabo Swinney is a players’ coach, Higgins said.
Higgins has a full four-year scholarship and will start at Clemson in the early summer.
He said his mother will still attend games.
“She’s my biggest fan,” Higgins said. “She’ll be there.”
When he initially committed to the University of Tennessee in August 2015, before re-opening the process in February 2016, Higgins said UT is close to home and his family can come and watch him play.
On Wednesday, Higgins said Clemson is only 3.5 hours away. It’s in northwest South Carolina, southeast of Knoxville and northeast of Atlanta.
Higgins said he is very excited to go to Clemson.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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