Commentary: Early signing day Wednesday is time to celebrate for football players

Defensive back Zakhari Spears of Loyola, shown standing in front of a gate wearing a mask, will sign with Washington
Defensive back Zakhari Spears of Loyola will sign with Washington on Wednesday.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a fortunate group of high school senior football players in California who have had their seasons delayed and disrupted finally will have a moment Wednesday to celebrate.

It’s the first day to sign an early national letter of intent, and those who made it through the strangest college recruiting process in history will get to appreciate the moment for what it is. They are survivors of a time that produced so much uncertainty.

“I’m really proud of myself,” said Loyola High defensive back Zakhari Spears, who will sign with Washington.

Official college visits were prohibited this year. College coaches couldn’t leave campus in the spring to visit with high school coaches or recruits. There has been no 2020 film of players for coaches to evaluate. It was left to players and their coaches to convince college recruiters of their ability while also focusing on academics to make sure they would be able to sign.


“The hours and hours I put in following a routine and using my free time,” Spears said of his secret to success.

Across Southern California, dozens of players will end the recruiting process, though that really doesn’t mean the end, because college sports now have a transfer portal that is becoming more and more popular. At least for one day, players and their families can be thankful that a verbal commitment has become official and have a little bit of relief that a major financial burden has been relieved.

Asjia Roberson’s lacrosse journey led to the junior committing to USC earlier this year.

Dec. 11, 2020

While the focus of many will be on which schools did best and which recruits have the most stars next to their name, this year’s signing day in the middle of a pandemic should be viewed as validation that individuals found ways to convince recruiters to offer a vote of confidence by giving them the chance to be a college student and athlete.

Let’s forget the dream of making the NFL for the moment. This is about having the opportunity to build a better future, and it took a relentless commitment on and off the field, with many people contributing. It’s also just the beginning. Signing a letter of intent means those players have a scholarship waiting for them. But they still have to continue doing the work, for there are many waiting to compete against them on campus and in the future.

So I’m going to ignore all the talk of who’s No. 1, player ratings, team ratings and whatever crazy stuff happens Wednesday. My focus will be on appreciating how challenging it has been for everyone trying to earn a college scholarship amid a pandemic. They deserve their moment of satisfaction. Whatever happens in the future, they accomplished a big goal. Now it’s up to them to keep it going.


CIF cancels high school football bowl games and state championships for volleyball, cross-country, water polo.

Dec. 1, 2020