McCants true to word, picks USF over FSU, UGA (PHOTOS)

Niceville

Niceville wideout Tyre McCants etched his future with USF on National Signing Day Wednesday.

NICK TOMECEK | Daily News
Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 11:21 AM.

NICEVILLE – Tyre McCants wasn’t going to be anyone’s backup plan.

An all-state wideout and the Daily News Large School Football Player of the Year, the Niceville senior had established himself as not only one of the most explosive offensive weapons in the Sunshine State, but in the country.

That’s why the University of Georgia eventually came calling on the eve of National Signing Day, and that’s why defending National Champion Florida State University made a late push to sign the 6-foot-1, 202-pounder Wednesday morning.

View a photo gallery of the signing ceremony >>


But as Niceville assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Adron Robinson told a packed Niceville High auditorium at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, McCants proved to be a man of his word. McCants, a little more than a month of verbally committing to the University of South Florida, celebrated National Signing Day by etching his future with the Division-1 Bulls.

“It was really important that I was a man of my word,” said McCants, who totaled 1,888 total yards of offense and posted 22 touchdowns to help lead the Eagles to a state championship. “I thought about it a lot last night, this morning and I told assistant coach (Stu) Holt at USF in January that I wanted to honor my commitment. I didn’t want to be the type of recruit who gets another offer and then just leaves out of nowhere. I didn’t want to be that type of person, not just for USF but for myself.”

“I feel good about it. I feel it was the right decision.”

And so did Robinson.

“They were there with him from Day No. 1,” Robinson, who Niceville head coach John Hicks referred to as the “Hype Machine,” said of USF. “One thing about Niceville kids, he gave his word. He committed late and he did that on purpose. When he made a decision, he wanted to be sure. And he was sure. USF, great school, great coaching staff, great facilities, clean campus. He’s going to do well there.”

Several factors affirmed that for McCants, who lauded the coaching staff and atmosphere of the Tampa-based University.

“I guess the opportunity I see myself in, I just couldn’t turn it down,” said McCants, who received around 20 offers from universities across the county. “I think this year and the next four years, USF is going to blow up big.”

That was enough motivation to turn down an earlier offer from Louisville. That was enough to turn down perennial SEC powerhouse Georgia Tuesday night. And that was enough to turn away a late push from McCants’ favorite team FSU, which contacted his parents around sunrise Wednesday morning with the offer.

“They didn’t talk to me, they talked to my mom and my dad,” McCants said. “He was the one that let me know. He said they said that somebody got hurt, so they took his commitment away, his scholarship away and went after me. I took that as you don’t really want me. You just need somebody. So I didn’t want to go somewhere were I was just a backup plan.”

And his mom, Tonja, said the family fully supported his decision.

“It’s always been Tyre’s decision, and we’re going to support him no matter what,” said the proud mom who was clad in USF gear.

But like Tyre and his coaches, she questioned the whirlwind of late offers.

Of course you feel like, ‘Why is it last minute.’ It throws the kids off,” she said.

Robinson shared that sentiment, but also noted that it further validated McCants’ seemingly endless talent.

“Actually it’s pretty exciting,” he said. “One thing about those last-second offers, you’re talking Georgia, you’re talking Florida State, so it’s exciting. It’s exciting for him and he felt honored by it. But at the same time, this was a very emotional decision, emotion for him and emotional for his family.

“We all know how the recruiting process works – everyone can’t be No. 1. But at the same time, I was surprised those offers didn’t come sooner.”

And so was Hicks, who said, “Kind of the surprise was that those teams didn’t come in earlier. It really shows that while they didn’t offer him earlier, he was near the top of their list. One person fell through and they came right back to him. But I think it worked out for the best.”

Finally etching his future, McCants can’t wait to join what he calls “the dream team.” As for his message to area fans who are looking forward to watching the playmaker on Saturdays, “All I can say is be ready, just hold on to your seats.”

Teammates join spotlight

McCants wasn’t the only Eagle to garner praise and fanfare on National Signing Day.

Defensive end Marqui Daniel signed with Eastern Kentucky University, offensive lineman Connor McJunkin signed with NAIA University of Cumberlands in Kentucky and offensive lineman Mitchell Matthews signed with Division II Fairmont State University in West Virginia.

“We’re proud of all of them,” said Hicks of the trio and McCants. “They’re all going to different levels of schools and all have great opportunities ahead of them. I think they’ll all be successful where they’re going.”

Daniel, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder who led Niceville in tackles and also pulled down a team-best seven and a half sacks and 19 and a half tackles for loss, looks to make an immediate impact for Division-1 FCS Colonels.

“I just hope to do the best I can and help them win a championship,” he said.

As for making the transition to chasing down collegiate-level running backs, wideout and quarterbacks, Daniel believes he’ll raise his game by “getting bigger, stronger.”

As for 6-foot, 260-pound McJunkin and 6-3, 235-pound Matthews, the pair was instrumental in paving the way for the all-state campaigns of quarterback Ashton Hooker and running back Tayjon Culley, who paced a backfield that gained more than 3,000 rushing yards.

“Just quality guys with their character,” Hicks said. “You can see, they’re not prototypical, big college linemen, but they’re going to be great players for the programs they’re going to.”



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