The NCAA notes that only about 2 percent of high school students earn athletic scholarship money.
So on Wednesday at Columbus East High School, four students officially joined a very select group in a celebration at the school.
East Athletics Director Bob Gaddis made the announcement in front of a crowd of their fellow students, family and friends. Football players Rob McKee (Marian University), Cody Hempstead (Olivet Nazarene University) and John Stephens (Lindsey Wilson College) all signed national letters of intent, as did soccer player Emma Dwenger (Central Michigan).
Marian quarterbacks coach Bryan Hamrock stood beside McKee.
“We feel lucky, blessed and honored that Rob fell through the cracks,” Hamrock said. “We had to sit and wait to see if offers came through from bigger schools. We tend to find guys who have NCAA I-AA talent and they play with a chip on their shoulders.”
Hamrock said that McKee was one of the most coveted recruits of Marian, which won the NAIA national championship last season. “He’s a guy who finishes blocks and puts guys on the ground,” Hamrock said.
As the recruiting push came down to its final days, McKee decided to go with Marian over University of Indianapolis.
“Both schools had good campuses and they were close to each other,” McKee said. “I guess it came down to where I really wanted to be. Marian fit me the best. It’s not very big and it’s homey. And winning is always a good thing.”
Stephanie McKee had expected her son to do well in football since he was a young child. “He was a double-striper (in youth football),” she said. “He was over the weight limit so he couldn’t carry the ball. But he’s always known what he wanted.”
McKee, an offensive guard at East, played next to Stephens, who will be a lineman at Lindsey Wilson, an NAIA school which is located in Columbia, Ky.
“Facility-wise, it’s amazing,” Stephens said of Lindsey Wilson. “They have D-1 facilities.
“And I took a trip there and they made me feel like I do here ... at home. Plus, I always wanted to play in the South. I think football is a little bigger in the South.”
“He worked hard for it,” said his father, also John Stephens. “He’s always been athletic, big and strong.”
Hempstead, a tight end/wide receiver, also will be attending an NAIA school in Olivet Nazarene.
“In the end, I knew where I wanted to go,” Hempstead said. “I used to go there for a big church event every year. I absolutely love the campus and I love that it is a Christian school.”
“Cody has been involved with the school and he felt comfortable,” said Bob Hempstead, Cody’s father. “He always has had a very good GPA and he’s been a good kid.”
Dwenger has been one of the state’s top goal scorers the past two seasons.
“Everything she has gotten, she has gotten for herself,” said her mom, Martha. “She is strong-willed and determined.”
Although Dwenger verbally committed to Central Michigan before the soccer season, she took an official recruiting trip there two weeks ago.
“It was exciting,” she said. “Every time I go up there it feels more like a place I can call home.”