6 Cougars sign letters of intent
Last week, a group of Shawnee Mission Northwest football players who have played together since elementary school, stayed together in a different way.
Wednesday, Feb. 4, six Cougars signed on the dotted line, officially announcing their intentions to play college football.
Headlining the group was 6-foot-4, 245-pound linebacker Mike Rivera, who signed with The University of Kansas.
Rivera's decision came down to Kansas or Missouri, but in the end the Jayhawks won out because of the great relationship they developed with the coaching staff.
Head Jayhawk Mark Mangino and linebackers coach Dave Doeren both made a great impact on Rivera and his family.
"Our family and theirs just clicked," Rivera said. "The coaching staff is great, the weight room's impressive and they really just made me feel like you're pretty special if you play football there."
Three years ago Rivera had no idea a Division-I scholarship would come his way.
However, during his junior season at SMNW, he began to get interest from recruiters. At that point, he realized he would play college football -- he just didn't know where or at what level.
"I wanted to play somewhere. and I knew I had a good chance to get a scholarship," Rivera said. "I just had no idea it would be at KU."
Rivera verbally committed to Kansas last fall, the week before the KU-MU football game.
The Jayhawks went on to win that game, 35-14.
Two of Rivera's teammates signed with the same school, but one said that seeing his teammates sign with their schools the same day made the entire process a little more special.
"We've been playing together since elementary school," 6-foot-1 defensive back and linebacker Dustin Magwire said. "And to see us all stick with it and move on to play college ball is great."
Magwire will attend Benedictine College in Atchison, where he is hoping to room with friend and teammate Adam Richer.
Richer, the 5-foot-10, 205 pound offensive and defensive lineman, committed to Benedictine before Magwire, but until about two months ago he wasn't sure he was going to play college football.
However, after meeting with the coaching staff and talking with his dad and brothers, Richer decided that going on to play in college was too good of an opportunity to pass up.
"My dad and the Benedictine coach really talked me into it," Richer said. "But I'm glad they did, because after the season ended, I already started missing football."
Richer is undecided about what field of academics he will pursue.
Magwire plans to major in business with a focus on finance, but like Richer is elated to be looking forward to college football.
"I just can't wait to play on Saturdays," Magwire said.
Two other Cougars joining the new Ravens on Saturdays are headed to Junior College.
Ryan Torain, a 6-foot-1 running back, signed with Butler County Community College and Chad Weaver, a 6-foot, 255-pound lineman, chose Hutchinson Community College.
Although both athletes are excited and a little nervous, they have great expectations for their future at the next level.
"I think I'm more excited than nervous," Torain said. "I'm moving on to bigger and better things and I plan on working my butt off this summer to be ready for a faster game."
While Torain took weeks to narrow down his choices, Weaver went with the first school he visited.
"Everything just seemed to click right away," he said. "The coaches, the atmosphere, it was all great. And now I'm just looking forward to it being a great challenge."
The final Cougar to sign last week was 6-foot-2, 240-pound lineman Matt Ferris, who will attend Emporia State.
Ferris' link to ESU was actually more of a fluke than anything. On his way to another recruiting visit, Ferris drove through Emporia and left his highlight tape with the Hornets.
A couple of days later he got a call from the coaches and a few months later he signed.
"It was just a freak thing," Ferris said. "But I'm looking forward to getting stronger, faster and meeting new people."
This week, two more Cougars were expected to make up their minds about where to play college football. That brings the total to eight, marking the largest class to sign in coach Scott Diebold's time at SMNW.
The Cougars finished the season with a 9-2 record and lost to the eventual state champion Olathe North Eagles in the state playoffs.
The record was by far the team's best in the past four years and most said last week's signings were the perfect way to cap the season.
"I've never been part of a group as great as this one," Torain said. "I just loved the feeling of taking the field with these guys. And to sign on the same day, that was just great."