Alex Riley

Daily light Sports writer

Last week was supposed to be one of the biggest football days in the history of Ellis County. Mother Nature turned it into a week-long process instead.

But there’s still plenty to celebrate.

National signing day has come and gone in the area and the 2011 event will either be remembered as the start of something great or a once-in-a-lifetime moment. Four, yes four, athletes from three area schools signed NCAA Division I-A letters of intent to join four different football programs.

Officially, Ellis County football is now on the national map.

The headliner of the group was Waxahachie product LaDarius Brown who took his talents to TCU. Brown, a top 100 player nationally, could play either offense or defense for the Horned Frogs next fall. Midlothian was the big school, sending Eric Agbaroji to non-BCS powerhouse Boise State and Dillon Wilson to Big 12 riser Kansas State. Red Oak receiver Ishmael Harrison rounded out the group, signing a scholarship offer to UTEP.

Last season, Ellis County had three players go D-I. Two of them did not qualify, the other injured himself ending up on the injured reserve. Make no mistake – this group won’t have that problem.

This group is made up of intelligent, team-first athletes who know when it’s time to show off and when it’s time to get serious. Those qualities are what made all four players top notch prospects on signing day.

The list of players is significant. Having four guys come from one area with only three high schools 4A or better is pretty special. It shows that there is talent in this area and that college coaches are beginning to take note. But there’s more to it than that. Much, much more.

These four players didn’t just go to a D-I school. Anyone can sign with some small college in a lackluster non-BCS league and shine. These athletes didn’t choose to go to schools where they might be able to help build up something. These guys went to places where a tradition is already in place, where winning is expected.

All four of those programs made a bowl game last year. All four finished the regular season with six or more wins. Three of the four teams were ranked in the top 25 for an extended period of time this season. Two have played in BCS bowl games in the last two years. And, of course, TCU won the “granddaddy of them all” in the Rose Bowl this season.

While there is a standard in place, some of the schools are changing. Boise State moves to the Mountain West Conference. TCU is headed to the Big East. The Big 12 is now down to 10 teams. Conference USA is seeing a shakeup in traditional powers with teams like SMU and UCF playing for the conference title.

All four of these players have a chance to go in and leave their mark. Maybe not this year, depending on their circumstances but down the line they can be part of something great. They didn’t choose an easy route to the top.

The landscape is changing. The expectations are not. And these four players from Ellis County are right in the middle of it.

Alex is a sports writer covering Ellis County sports for Waxahachie Newspapers Inc. Contact him at alex.riley@wninews.com or at 469-517-1456.