National Signing Day kicked off bright and early at Apple Valley High School on Wednesday for five senior athletes, including four football players.
The Eagles were Class AAAAA state quarterfinalists last season, and they're sending three players — Mario Lewis, Shane Sande and Marcus Hosea — to Division II schools and another, Noah Sanders, to an FCS powerhouse.
Below are the reactions from Eagles coach Chad Clendening and the recruits on their special day.
Noah Sanders, QB – North Dakota State (PWO)
Clendening: “Noah had a dominating senior season, breaking school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season. While he possesses great physical skills, perhaps his greatest attributes are his leadership, his composure and his ability to perform his best at the most critical times.”
Sanders: “Ever since I was little I always wanted to play baseball and about a year and a half ago all my dreams completely changed. Ever since then I have dreamed of this day. I worked my tail off every single day by myself and with my teammates to get to this point. It is a huge weight lifted off your shoulders knowing you have a place to go now. I am looking forward to going out there to prove myself and show I can lead.”
“My junior year, when I stepped onto that varsity field, it was just a whole different feel for me. I don't really know – I just fell in love with it. It was a whole different feel for me. I surprised myself. I was a better football player than I gave myself credit for and that is when it changed for me.”
Mario Lewis, ATH – Winona State University
Clendening: “Mario was a three-year starter and has been a huge part of our success over that time. He is a quiet leader who earned the respect of his coaches and teammates over time with his consistent play and work ethic. An impact player on both sides of the ball, he understood the team needed him to be an every-down running back where he was a physical and as punishing a running back as we have had at Apple Valley in a long time.”
Lewis: “Today shows me that all my hard work paid off. It gives me a day to reflect on all the hard work I have done. A lot of times I get caught up in working so hard you forget all the work you have done. It is a good day to look back and be proud of what I have done.”
Shane Sande, LB – Southwest Minnesota State
Clendening: “Shane is a tremendously versatile player. He played multiple positions on offense and defense and special teams during his three-year career as a varsity player. As a senior, he played more snaps than any player on the team and brought a mentality of toughness to our team.”
Sande: “Since third grade, I have wanted to play football. I have always loved it. My dad was my coach as a kid, and it is always great to have that family support. I thank my parents and my sister for always pushing me to be my best. My teammates picked me up when I was down, and I was able to pick them up when they were down – that whole family aspect of football is incomparable to any other sport. I love it so much.”
Marcus Hosea, DB – Bemidji State
Clendening: “Marcus is a physical defensive back with great instincts and ball skills. Marcus developed into a great cover corner with a knack for making big plays when his team needed it the most.”
Hosea: “Today is just another step forward to what I am trying to work towards. This summarizes all the hard work I have put in through all my years of football – all the practices, all the games. It is just a big day and another step for me.”