MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

February 6, 2013

Signed and sealed

With some surprises, area athletes’ decisions become official

Lori Jefferson got a blast of the whirlwind that can be college football recruiting, and it began with a phone call from the Naval Academy just days after her son, Muskogee offensive lineman Dexter McGriff, had returned from an official visit to Central Oklahoma.

“I didn’t think he would be interested,” she said. “This is a God thing because in a week, I can’t contemplate how fast things changed.”

Her husband, Elsworth Jefferson, heard about the call and his first thought was it was THE Navy, not the academy.

Five days later he was on his way to Annapolis, Md., for an official visit. By Monday morning this week, he had committed, and the differences are vast. There’s the five-year commitment as a Navy officer of all graduates. And, while UCO is a part of what’s known as the SEC of Division II, McGriff will find himself, following a redshirt year, on a team that will play two nationally televised games — Notre Dame and the Army game.

The 6-3, 255-pound, three-year starter as a Rougher has Navy family roots, though through the service itself, not the acad emy.

“My dad was a Naval vet from World War II and I have two brothers, his uncles, one who served in Vietnam and the other a retired Navy vet,” said his father, Dexter McGriff Sr.

Rise and surprise

When Wagoner High School students arrived for Tuesday’s national letter of intent signing ceremony at the school’s events center, little did they know a change was in store.

The change was Kerwin Thomas, who had verbally committed to Wyoming, signing his national letter of intent to play collegiately at Tulsa early Tuesday morning and telling no one.

“When the process began last spring, Tulsa is where he really wanted to go,” said Wagoner coach Dale Condict. “Things weren’t matching up at Tulsa so Wyoming made an offer and he took it. But they called on Friday saying they wanted to gray-shirt him.

“If that’s your offering from the beginning, I’m OK with it. To me, what Wyoming did was going back on their word.”

Gray-shirting is a process where an athlete commits to a university but the scholarship offer doesn’t take effect for two years. Thomas would have to sign his NLI in June and could not attend the university or practice with the team until the spring of 2014.

“I had been in contact with coach Blankenship at Tulsa the past two days,” Condict said. “Then last night or early this morning, a recruit de-committed from Tulsa, opening up a scholarship opportunity. Tulsa offered and Kerwin signed.”

So after Condict had announced that T.J. Ponds was headed to Northeastern State and Dylan Cantrell and Lateze Clayton would be playing at Central Oklahoma, Condict began expressing what Thomas meant to the team and what had happened. When the time came, Thomas, who was wearing a Wyoming sweat shirt when he entered, stood up and removed the sweat shirt revealing a Tulsa t-shirt underneath, much to the loud approval of the crowd.

“It was crazy,” Thomas, surrounded by his family, said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Tulsa. It’s like a dream come true.”

Cantrell and Clayton are excited to continue as teammates when they begin fall practice next fall in Edmond. Cantrell is glad there will be a familiar face at a new location.

"We’ve played together so long,” he said. “We might even room together so I’m glad.”

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