Five North players preparing for college life

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Five Columbus North senior football players participated in a signing ceremony on Thursday. Signees included, from left, Jaylen Flemmons (Ball State), Damon Hunter Jr. (St. Francis), Cortez Bandy (Marian), Noah Earl (Marian) and Andrew Chapman (Trine).

The Columbus North football program is sending seven athletes to play at the collegiate level after five more players signed during the Bull Dogs’ signing day ceremony Thursday.

Wide receiver Jaylen Flemmons signed with Ball State as a preferred walk-on, while safety Damon Hunter Jr. decided to play for St. Francis, linebacker Andrew Chapman signed with Trine and running back Cortez Bandy and linebacker Noah Earl both are headed to Marian University.

Bandy and Earl have have been friends since sixth grade and now are embarking on a new journey together.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was little,” Earl said. “It’s great that I get to go with my best friend and room in the same dorm. I get to play football with my best friend and meet new people that I’ll have a relationship with for the rest of my life.”

The two athletes will be joining a program that won an NAIA national championship just three years ago. The Knights had to beat St. Francis on its way to getting to the championship.

St. Francis has won the past two national titles and plays Marian at least once a year.

Hunter has made tackles on Bandy many times during practice, but now he’ll have a chance for square up against him wearing different jerseys for at least the next four years. Both schools are highly competitive, having accounted for all three of the last NAIA championships.

Hunter said the school’s academics is what really sold him on St. Francis, but the two back-to-back national titles, along with the coaching staff, also helped make his decision easier.

“It’s very nice to be signing with a team that is as successful as they are and good academically,” Hunter said. “It’s very good for me and just being in a program that wins, sort of like we do here (at North), is just really good for me.”

Trine’s 11-1 record helped persuade Chapman toward the Thunder, and he said the way the school runs its program reminded him a lot of home. He also said it was a big relief to have finally signed, and he can now focus on getting better on the field.

“I have goals now to shoot for and what I need to do to play at Trine and do the best I can,” Chapman said.

Flemmons is leaving the Bull Dogs as the program’s all-time leader in receptions with 93. He ended his career on a high note, setting a┬ásingle-season record with 995 receiving yards on his quest to finding a Division l school. He finally received an offer from the Cardinals.

“I was hoping for a while that I was going to get (a Division I offer),” Flemmons said. “None really showed the opportunity, and then Ball State gave me a chance, so I jumped on it.”

The other two athletes who singed earlier this year are defensive back J.D. Harris (Northern Illinois) and receiver Tristan Bailey (Illinois State).

North coach Tim Bless said having so many athletes advancing to the next level speaks of the tradition of Bull Dogs football and what these players have been able to accomplish.

“That’s awesome for Columbus North,” Bandy said. “That just means that coach Bless is doing the right thing. He’s making the right machines to go perform at the next level.”

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.