OHS senior Jajuan Cherry signs letter of intent with USF

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee High School senior Jajuan Cherry signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of South Florida (USF) on Dec. 20.

Cherry signed the papers in the OHS media room in front of friends and family, including OHS football coach Chris Branham.

OHS principal Dylan Tedders, who is also Cherry’s legal guardian, addressed the crowd gathered to watch moments before the letter was signed.

“I’m here serving two roles today,” said Mr. Tedders, “one as the principal, the other as a parent. And it’s really an honor to be standing here filling both shoes right now. Jajuan knows what an honor this is, and he knows this is just the beginning. Now the hard work begins.”

USF is a division I school, which is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics over seen by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Division I athletic programs generated over $8.7 billion in revenue in 2009–2010.

The USF Bulls are coming off an impressive 9-2 record under head coach Charlie Strong, who took over the coaching reigns at USF after being let go from the University of Texas football program in 2016.

OHS senior Jajuan Cherry throws up bull horns after signing his letter of intent to play for the University of South Florida Bulls on Dec. 20. Photo by Richard Marion.

“I’m thankful for coach Branham, coach Smith and all the people who’ve helped me,” said Cherry after signing the letter. “Without all of you I wouldn’t be where I am now. I’ll never forget you. This is a dream come true. As a young man I never thought I’d be able to play football at a top football program like USF. And it’s not only football, because I’m not just a football player, it’s because of you guys I was able to add on to my personality and discover who I really am.”

For the first time this year the NCAA approved an early signing period between Dec. 20 through Dec. 22 for the class of 2018. The thought being that by signing earlier it would give student athletes a way to opt out of the college recruiting scene six weeks earlier than usual.

In previous years, seniors had until the first Wednesday of February to make a decision before the signing period began. Which lead to a frantic few weeks at the end of the year where coaches would press on students to secure their commitments.

“It’s actually been kind of nerve wracking for me,” said Cherry in an interview after the signing. “Everyone in Okeechobee has been supportive of me. Everybody had been by my side and there for me. And now it’s time for me to step off to another part of my life and meet new people. It’s pretty nerve wracking, but it’s also a blessing because everything you’ve ever worked for is now paying off. I knew I wanted to sign at USF as soon as possible because USF was the first school to look past my size and say ‘he’s a football player.’ I knew after meeting coach Strong and talking to coach Branham that USF is the place I want to be.”

 

OHS senior Jajuan Cherry breaks off a long touchdown run during the Brahman’s game against Sebastian River on Oct. 16. Photo by Richard Marion.

 

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