RIO HONDO — Over the past few years, Rio Hondo head football coach Rocky James has seen his share of players go off and compete at the college level.
On Wednesday afternoon, however, in front of a trove of family and friends, it was his son Ethan’s turn to secure his future and ink his letter of intent to play football for EastTexasBaptist University in Marshall.
“It’s an honor and it’s always been my childhood dream,” said Ethan, who played linebacker for the Bobcats.
“Growing up, I’ve always dreamt of this happening and I’ve always dreamt of being a college athlete, and now I get to experience that.”
Rocky was also thrilled on Wednesday.
“The feeling is indescribable right now,” he said. “We went on a recruiting trip and the first school we went to was EastTexasBaptist University, and I thought it was awesome and he thought it was awesome, and from that point on we knew he was going to go there. We saw a couple of other schools, but we decided on ETBU.
“We’ve signed 18 kids to ETBU in the past, but this one is just a little bit different.”
During his senior season, Ethan had 110 tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hurries in 11 games played. But, as Rocky said, when the time came to choose where to go to college, it was always clear that it was going to be ETBU.
“It made me feel like I was home,” said Ethan. “Once I got there the coaches automatically treated me like I was a Tiger and like if I was already part of the family.
“But not only the coaches, I got a chance to talk to the faculty and the players, and I automatically knew this was the place I wanted to be.”
ETBU competes in the Division III American Southwest Conference. Two seasons ago (2015-16), the Tigers went 7-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play. Last season, ETBU was 7-3 overall and 3-3 in conference action.
Despite the optimism surrounding Wednesday’s event, Ethan took some time to reflect on what he will miss most about Rio Hondo High School.
“I’m going to miss being coached by my dad because that’s not something every kid can say,” he said. “It was hard and it was stressful at times, but I loved it and I really enjoyed playing for my dad. I’m going to miss that.”