Eight Pleasant Grove athletes sign letters
Eight Pleasant Grove students celebrated signing national letters of intent on Wednesday even though, truth be told, the dollar value of the scholarships they won was higher and almost all are expected to be first-timers at the sophomore university.
In football, RJ Collins and Corban Franklin will both take 3.8 GPAs at Southern Arkansas University, Logan Holt will carry a 3.75 GPA at Missouri Valley College. Victor Shaw, who signed earlier with the University of Texas at San Antonio, will leave PG with a 3.5 average.
Emma Boehmke, who signed to play football at Austin College, battled her way through dyslexia to finish in the top 10% of her class. She plans to get a master’s degree in education and become a diagnostician to help people with special needs.
All PG student-athletes have taken advantage of the dual college enrollment offered by Texarkana College. Softball player Mackenzie Williams will have nearly completed an associate’s degree before enrolling at Henderson State. His teammate, Presley Humphrey, heads to Weatherford Junior College and from there to nursing school.
Athletic director Josh Gibson noted that less than 5% of high school athletes progress to intercollegiate athletics, while at PG the ratio is over 15%.
“We have special kids here at Pleasant Grove and it’s cool that they can go on and play on another level,” he said. “These student-athletes also received a ton of academic money. Their excellence in athletics and academics is what makes PG such a special place.”
JM Long, a shortstop who played a vital role on both offense and defense in the 2021 PG State Championship, has signed with one of the nation’s Power 5 NCAA baseball programs, Texas Tech. He is the son of Steve Long and Lisa Watson.
According to his trainer, Riley Fincher, Long applies the habits learned in the classroom to the playing field.
“He loves baseball and everything that comes with success,” Fincher said. “He loves training, loves to challenge himself and always wants to improve every day. He has such a high IQ for the game. His baseball instincts are off the charts. Thanks to his work ethic and passion for the game, he sets an example on the field and in his preparation.
“We are extremely excited for his future at Texas Tech and are proud of all of his accomplishments,” Fincher added. “As staff and his teammates, we can’t wait to see the impact he will have in the 2023 season. He is a special player and a young man who we are very lucky to have in our program. .
Gibson said Collins, Franklin, Holt and Shaw all played on the court, in the classroom and in the community. Collins, a slots catcher, and Franklin, an outside linebacker, were the team captains.
Collins, the son of Russell and Lisa Collins, is a second generation Mulerider. His father played baseball in Magnolia. RJ said he plans to focus on football.
“RJ is a great athlete, a hard worker, and he has great character and integrity,” Gibson said. Collins led the Hawks in receptions, catching 16 balls for 442 yards and four touchdowns. He averages over 22 yards per catch.
“For a short player, he’s extremely explosive. He’s got elite speed,” Gibson said.
Collins developed an interest in physical therapy while studying kinesiology at Pleasant Grove. Meeting the demands of excellence in the classroom and in athletics taught him an important lesson.
“I learned to bend, but don’t break,” he said. “Some days it’s a tough road. You can’t let that interfere with your motivation.”
Another speedster is Franklin, the son of Bennie and Erin Franklin. He was clocked at 4.37 seconds on the 40-yard dash, which would have ranked among the top five fastest safeties in last year’s NFL scouting combine. He had 22 tackles, seven for a loss, and assisted on 66 tackles. He also caused and recovered a pair of fumbles.
“Corban is probably the fastest kid in East Texas,” Gibson said. “He’s another extremely hard worker with great character and integrity. In the classroom, on the pitch, in the community, he’s always at a high level.”
In San Antonio, Shaw will play for Jeff Traylor, who in 15 years at Gilmer led the Buckeyes to five state title games and three championships. Shaw, who has played on both the offensive and defensive lines, was named the Texas Super Elite All-State Player last week.
He was the 15-4A District Defensive Player of the Year and led the Hawks in several defensive stats: tackles, 52, assists, 36 and quarterback pressures, 14.
“Victor is extremely bright, and that helps him on the football pitch,” Gibson said. “He’s one of the most versatile big men in East Texas. He was drafted as both an offensive and defensive lineman.”
Holt, the son of Edd and Beth Holt and Kristi Langston, plans to pursue a Masters in Business Administration. As a linebacker, he made 20 solo tackles and 30 assists. He also developed a skill that coaches don’t know how to teach – how to be a deep snapper.
“He’s a self-taught football player. He’s probably the best deep-sea snapper in East Texas,” Gibson said. “They’ll let him do his thing.”
Boehmke, the daughter of Jay and Elaine Boehmke, is a leader of coach Andy Allen’s football team.
“The night before we played Texas High, she called all the players and told them to relax,” Allen said. “I guess they did it because we scored six goals.
“She’s our best setter and she has a great conscience,” he said. “She’s always in the right place, always right there.”
Williams, the daughter of Vaughn and Rosalie Williams, plans to focus on primary education. She’s an important part of the softball team, said coach Rebecca Collom.
“Mackenzie Williams played for me for four years. She played second most of that time and even caught up briefly when her team needed it,” Collom said. “Offensively, she slaps and works her short game to move runners. MJ runs bases aggressively and is always looking to take another one.”
Humphrey, daughter of Cindy and Phillip Humphrey, plans to become a nurse.
“Presley also played for me for four years,” Collom said. “She plays first and hits right-handed. She hits the ball with authority. I’m sure this season we’ll see quite a few of her balls leave the court. She’s worked hard in the offseason to become as strong as she is. will be able to see his gains on the field.
Although Williams and Humphrey lost their first seasons to COVID-19, the two have been key to deep playoffs over the past two years.
“Now we have one more opportunity to finish big,” Collom said. “I am happy that they have the opportunity to play at the next level. I am excited to see where it will take them and I wish them the best on their journey. No doubt they will find their path and their purpose in life. .”