Proud parents boasting hats and shirts from various universities around the country could be found in the West P.E. Gymnasium at College of the Canyons Wednesday afternoon as five Cougar football players signed their National Letter of Intent.
“Anytime you have mid-year signees, it’s just icing on the cake,” said head football coach Ted Iacenda. “Obviously these kids have prepared and put themselves in a position academically and athletically to be able to go early.”
Sophomore offensive tackle Kilian Zierer confirmed his commitment to Auburn from his home in Germany. Zierer is one of two offensive tackles signed to the Tigers during the early signing period.
At 6-foot-7, 290-pound Zierer towers over most of his new teammates and sits just a few pounds under the average weight of his unit. His frame will make a nice addition to Auburn’s interior offensive line.
The other four players crossed T’s and dotted I’s in front of a crowd of coaches and parents on the College of the Canyons campus. Among them was sophomore safety Tre Vallar, sophomore linebacker Tyler Richardson, sophomore center Jordan Palmer and sophomore defensive tackle Jack Schultz.
Schultz will take the next step in his journey at Abilene Christian University in pursuit of a business degree and a chance to play in the heart of college football, Texas.
“That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to go there,” said Schultz. “I signed in December so I could get into the Spring program and get ready, start training, working hard and start playing some Texas football.”
The 6-foot-2 265-pound defensive tackle recorded 39 tackles throughout the season, 24 of which were solo tackles. He also tacked on 4.5 sacks through 12 games for a loss of 21 yards.
Palmer affirmed his commitment to Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro. Although he stands at 6-feet, shorter than the average Division 1 lineman, he makes up for it in bulk. Weighing in at 310 pounds, Palmer is bigger than a majority of his new teammates. However, he doesn’t want his height to hold him back.
“I’ve been through a lot through all these schools rejecting me for my size,” said Palmer. “It’s good that I played with other people in college. It definitely prepared me weight room-wise, running-wise and all that.”
Vallar and Richardson will remain teammates at the next level, cementing themselves on the 2020 Wagner College roster with a quick swipe of the pen. The duo plans to head to Staten Island at the start of the year.
During the Cougars’ 2019 campaign, Vallar recorded 25 tackles and took down 16 runners by himself. Measuring at 6-foot-1, he has a height advantage over all but three of Wagner’s current defensive backs, standing even with two of his teammates and only one inch shorter than the other.
Vallar’s size may also put him into a position to switch in at linebacker like he has in the past for Canyons. His versatility may come as an advantage to him, and he credits his development as an athlete and person to his coaches at Canyons.
“I just want to thank all the coaches for believing in me,” he said. “It got me right mentally. Also physically, but more mentally.”
Richardson said signing his National Letter of Intent brought him a feeling of elation.
“It’s very stress-relieving,” said Richardson. “Being a kid from the valley I didn’t really have nothing in high school. It’s just a lot of stress coming off my shoulders being able to sign, to know that I have that school that wanted me to play.”
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker was the third-best tackler on Canyons’ roster with 53 total tackles and 31 solo takedowns.
College of the Canyons has a history of progressing its players to the next level, and Coach Iacenda sees it as business as usual. In his eyes, it’s his job to not only prepare his athletes for the next level, but for the next stage in life, as well.
“Everything we do here is predicated on the belief that we’re preparing them for the next level,” said Iacenda. “We feel like we’ve prepared these guys, we’ve pushed them hard. We send them out to the four-year level, and we know that they’re going to represent us well.”
Hart High School sees three sign
Three athletes from Hart High School also inked their names on National Letters of Intent Wednesday afternoon.
Senior quarterback Zach Johnson stood by his commitment to California, Berkley to test his skills in the Pac-12. Over his two seasons starting for the Indians, Johnson completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 5,680 yards and 57 touchdowns.
Hart baseball’s Isaac Kim will travel east on the 210 freeway to play for Pomona College next year. In Kim’s one season on the varsity squad, he has maintained a batting average of .286. Kim has driven in eight runs on 16 hits with three doubles and one home run. Kim has the chance to add to his stats this spring during his final season at Hart.
Middle hitter Gavin Leising will be continuing his volleyball career at Princeton University. A towering stature of 6-foot-9 and a block jump of 11-foot-4 gave Leising the advantage he needed to come away with 45 blocks and 260 kills in just one season at Hart. Princeton is ranked No. 10 in the country.