They won’t be teammates any more, and some of them will be rivals within just a few months. But four Mercer County players got to share one last football experience Wednesday.
Jordan Elery, James Johnson, Darion Lewis and Logan Lynn signed letters-of-intent to play college football Wednesday during a ceremony at the school.
“It really is,” Lewis said. “These are my brothers, and I’ve been playing with them my whole life.”
Mercer coach Chris Pardue said having four players who are college-bound and who signed on the same day also makes it a big day for the program.
“It’s very gratifying,” Pardue said. “These kids have been through some tough times with coaching changes and stuff like that, and they stuck with it and pulled this team together.”
Three of the boys made their choice from the same pool of schools, though they made different decisions. Lewis said he also looked at Cumberlands and Lindsey Wilson, Johnson was looking at Campbellsville and Lindsey Wilson and Elery considered Cumberlands.
Johnson said there was a fair amount of communication between them.
“We talked a lot. I’d say I changed my mind every other day,” Johnson said. “We did (communicate), but I talked with (assistant) coach (Brian) Rowland, and he said ‘You can’t base your decision on what everybody else is doing, you’ve got to base it on where you see yourself,’ and I really see myself at Cumberlands.”
Meanwhile, Lynn was looking a little closer to home. He attended the Governor’s Scholars program at Centre last summer, and the school made a good impression on him during that five-week stint.
“I picked Centre because of its strength in the classroom and on the field. I liked the academics and athletics,” said Lynn, who is being recruited as a defensive lineman or defensive end. “I’m just looking foward to being part of something bigger and part of a team.”
Elery is following in the footsteps of his parents, both of whom went to Lindsey Wilson.
“My parents went there (but) they tried to make it my decision,” said Elery, who was recruited as a strong safety but said he may someday move up to outside linebacker.
He said Lindsey Wilson was the school that offered him the best financial package.
“They gave me the best offer. The program is still new, and the facilities are really nice,” he said. “I’m blessed.”
Lewis, who was recruited as a wide receiver, said Cumberland left the best impression on him.
“I just felt like Campbellsville set me up for success the most of the schools I was considering,” he said.
He said he got some advice from Pardue, a former Campbellsville offensive coordinator, about what to expect from the coaches he worked with.
“They also run the same offense, so that’ll be an advantage to me, also,” he said.
Lewis and Elery will be less than 20 miles apart at schools that are archrivals, but they said there has been no trash-talking between them yet.
“I just want to be on that field again ASAP,” Lewis said.
Johnson will be just a bit farther away at Cumberlands, but he’ll be in the same conference and playing against Campbellsville and Lindsey Wilson annually.
“It’s really exciting, but it’s going to be different playing against them,” he said.
Johnson, a running back, said he was sold after a trip to Cumberlands, the last school he visited.
“I went down there, and I really liked the campus and really liked their football program,” he said. “And I really like the competition (within the team) that’s going to be there.”
The entire Mercer team was on hand in the auditorium to see the signings, and Pardue said he hopes there will be other large groups of Titans headed off to play college football in the future.
“That’s why I wanted the other kids to see it,” he said.
It’s a good bet that at least some of them will remember it, just as Lynn said he remembered watching players who came before him sign and hoping he’d get the chance that came his way Wednesday.
“I remember sitting in here as a freshman watching other people sign and hoping I would be doing that one day, and now it’s really special because it’s my signing day,” he said.