For many high school athletes, playing college-level ball with current teammates and friends is usually a pipe dream, but for four Waltrip Rams football players, that fantasy has turned into a reality.
On Feb. 1, otherwise known as National Signing Day, offensive linemen Jonathan Chapa and Jonathan Schnaufer, quarterback Brantley Williams Jr. and defensive back Dennis Gafford all committed to Langston University in Oklahoma, reassuring that they would remain teammates for the foreseeable future.
“We were hoping for it this whole time, but we didn’t know it would actually happen,” said Chapa. “It’s hard enough, going, getting an offer to play at the next level, and then getting it with your teammates and your best friends, it’s once in a lifetime.”
For Chapa, the idea of becoming a Langston Lion was a no-brainer not only because of the opportunity to play with his buddies, but it was his first and only offer, whereas the other three had at least one other. In fact, the other three had all gotten offered the chance to play at Trinity University in Illinois.
“Us three were like, ‘dang, what is Chapa going to do?’” Williams said. “We didn’t want to leave him.”
Williams, who had the most offers among the group, was the first one to appear on Langston’s radar just a few weeks prior to National Signing Day, and when they contacted him, he made sure to mention his teammates’ names.
Williams said that a Langston coach agreed to watch game tape of the other three, came away impressed and decided to invite all four of them on an official visit.
They took the trip up north to Langston just two weeks before signing day and were sold on the idea of playing there.
All four players agreed that the Langston program is getting a makeover, and they are excited at the opportunity to be a part of it.
“By the time we get there, and in a couple of years, all of the equipment will be new,” Gafford said. “We’ll have new jerseys, nice helmets and shoulder pads and the field is being re-done.”
Gafford, Schnaufer and Chapa are originally from the Houston area and Williams moved here from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, so after growing up in big cities, the foursome is also delighted to continue their studies in a calmer environment.
“It was quiet,” Gafford said of the city. “It seems like a good place to go out there and learn”
Although they are happy to be playing college football, getting a chance to continue their education and have it paid for is what is most important about the offer.
While they have pushed one another on the field, they have also done so in the classroom, and all four players will be graduating from Waltrip with over a 3.0 GPA.
“Our grades actually helped us get the scholarship,” Gafford said. “We want to be student athletes, not just athletes.” “It’s the no. 1 priority,” Williams added. “You can’t play ball if you’re not passing your classes.”
When the group of four graduates in May, the soon-tobe former Rams hope to leave a lasting impression on their younger teammates through their work on the field and in the classroom.
“I want them to work just as hard, because I want them to have a chance to go somewhere, too, and play for free,” Gafford said.
Although it was their own hard work and determination that got them the offer, the crew credits the Waltrip coaching staff for pushing them and changing the Rams’ culture.