MIDLOTHIAN – Gage Windsor has seen his fair share of nightmares. On Monday, he finally got to live a dream.

While the paperwork to Texas A&M Commerce might have already been filed back on the actual signing day, Windsor joined five other Midlothian athletes in a signing day ceremony to celebrate their achievements. It was an honor that was long overdue and not just because of the ice storms that caused the postponement.

“This means everything to me. Just to get the chance to get to go to the next level, this is everything I’ve dreamed of,” Windsor said. “College football has been one of my dreams since I was young so to get this opportunity is great.”

For Windsor, the day was as much about the accomplishment as it was about redemption.

Heading into his senior season, Windsor was expected to be a major factor on the defensive side of the ball for the Panthers. Elected as one of the four team captains, he didn’t disappoint, finishing as the team’s third leading overall tackler (66) and third leading solo tackler (40). He did all that in just eight games.

After battling through offseason shoulder surgery last season, Windsor sustained a foot injury that ultimately required surgery at season’s end. The injury forced him to miss the final two games of the season and limited his production down the stretch.

Midlothian football coach Lee Wiginton recalls meeting Windsor when he arrived last spring and seeing a player who was eager to prove himself despite not being released from doctors’ supervision. Wiginton said he felt like Windsor had a desire to prove himself to the new coaching staff. In the end, he proved to be one of the toughest players to ever wear the blue and white.

“He got stronger than he was, had a great summer and came into the season and was really doing well then got hit by the injury bug again. It’s just really, really sad the way his senior season went,” Wiginton said. “The coaches at A&M Commerce, when they saw him on film, what little bit of film they were able to see, they were very, very impressed. I’m just glad for him that he’s going to get an opportunity to go on and continue to play and I’m happy for A&M Commerce. Not only is Gage going to be an asset to their football team as an athlete but he’s also just a great leader and a great person.”

It will take a while before Windsor is at 100 percent again but that time is quickly approaching. A screw inserted into his foot to hold things in place after the surgery is slated to be removed in the next few weeks. There’ll be some therapy and work to get back in shape but Windsor figures to be ready in time for fall camp with the Lions.

What sold the senior on Commerce? Simple – it had a familiar feel.

When Wiginton and his new staff arrived in Midlothian, they brought a focus on team camaraderie that helped bond the Panthers for the 2010 season. The end result was a 5-5 record and the team’s first realistic chance to make the playoffs in at least a half a decade.

Windsor hopes his instincts are right about what’s going on at Commerce because he’s ready to be part of something special.

“It was the players and how much of a family it is. It really reminded me of coach Wig and what we did this year and I really liked that a lot,” Windsor said.