Menomonie, Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Elk Mound, Strum (WQOW) -- A large number of area athletes sign their college football letters of intent, Wednesday.
At Menomonie, seven Mustangs sign their letters of intent, the most who've ever signed at one time in the school. Five players are headed to Division II, while offensive lineman Alex Fenton signs a Division I letter of intent to play at Wisconsin. Fenton picked the Badgers over Michigan and Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh.
"They offered me," says Fenton about the Wisconsin coaches, "then I got a call from Harbaugh, after a good week or two I thought about it and I decided, I took another visit and I decided, yeah, that's definitely the place I want to be. Definitely, the coaching staff, they're all great guys, they're about their players more than they are themselves."
Fellow lineman Channer Schutts signs with St. Cloud State.
"It kind of shows how the hard work kind of does actually pay off," says Schutts, "and it's not just me, it's everybody, it's your friends, it's your family, it's your coaches, it's everything put together."
Head coach Joe LaBuda's son, Jace, a quarterback, signs with Winona State.
"It's kind of cool to continue the tradition," says Jace LaBuda, "and ever since I was little it's been a dream of mine to go on and play at the next level, now it's finally here, it's really cool."
Lineman Waylon Quilling signs with Southwest Minnesota State.
"When I went to Southwest it felt right," says Quilling, "when I met the teammates, they were like brothers to me, I mean, I fit in, it really felt right."
Jake Goodman, who was a cornerback, wide receiver, and return specialist for the Mustangs, signs with Minnesota-Duluth.
"They built a great program, " says Goodman, "and their coaches have been there five-plus years, all of them, and their turnover rate for coaches is the lowest in the league, so that definitely made my choice a lot easier."
Rhett Sheehan played safety and wide receiver for Menomonie. He signs with Concordia University in St. Paul.
"When I went there, I talked to their coaches right away," Sheehan says, "and their coaches were the most genuine people I talked to, they're really great guys, and that's what pushed it for me."
Also at Menomonie, Doug Hamilton signs a letter of intent to play at Ridgewater Community College in Willmar, Minnesota.
At Chippewa Falls, three Cardinals are headed to the Division II level. Jack Schumacher signs with Winona State, Bryce Harder is headed to Minnesota-Duluth, with Cale Hannusch off to St. Cloud State.
"I'm extremely excited," says Hannusch, "this is a lot of load off my shoulders, through the whole recruiting process, it's really rough, and going through some ups and downs, but I'm really glad I chose St. Cloud."
"When I got there," says Harder about UMD, "the coaches were just really trustworthy, they were just really great. The players, I just fit in with them really well so it just seemed like a great fit."
"Mindset is to learn as much as I can," says Schumacher, "be the best football player I can be, help the team out whichever way, and win games. And most importantly graduate with a degree."
Also on his way to the Division II Northern Sun Conference is Eau Claire Memorial lineman Michael Graese, who signs with St. Cloud State.
"When I went up there for a visit I really felt like I was part of the team," says Graese, "along with the academics, they have a really good academic program so that's what really sealed the deal for me."
At Eau Claire North, linebacker Ashton Miloszewicz signs with Division II Winona State, where he'll join his older brother Anthony, a tight end with the Warriors.
"With watching him play," says Ashton Miloszewicz, "watching the team play and being able to see what they've been able to accomplish, what the program's all about, and I just want to be part of something like that."
Also at North, the Huskies honor two athletes for their Division III commitments: Brianna Banks (UW-Stout women's basketball) and Josh Pykkola (UW-Stout football).
Four players from the WIAA Division 6 state champion Eau Claire Regis Ramblers will play at the college level, including three Division II signees: Ben Sokup (Sioux Falls), Sam Forden (St. Cloud State), and Matt McCann (Minnesota-Duluth).
"I kind of thought I was going to play baseball," says McCann, "but then after this year, we were really successful with Regis and everything and I kind of just had these opportunities and I decided to take it."
"It's always been my dream to play college football," says Forden, "I don't know if I ever actually saw myself doing it, but now that it's a reality, it's kind of crazy, I'm really looking forward to getting into it."
"I don't know, I can't really put it into words," Sokup says, "just finally accomplishing a goal of mine and being able to do it with my teammates."
Ramblers teammate Noel Ortiz has decided to play at the Division III level for the University of St. Thomas.
McDonell Central is sending two players to play college football, including Ryan Sorensen, who signs with Division II Concordia University in St. Paul.
"I'm really excited," Sorensen says, "I'm looking forward to continue my career at the college level, and I just want to thank everybody that helped me along the way to get there."
Macks teammate Grayson Knowlton will play college football and study engineering at UW-Platteville.
Two Elk Mound athletes are moving on to the Division II level. Noah Zurbuchen will play at St. Cloud State, with Dane Lew on his way to Minnesota-Duluth.
"I really like the area, I really like the school," says Lew, "they have what I want academically, I just really like the program."
"The players and the coaches, I really felt like I could fit in with those guys," Zurbuchen says, "and it would be like a family atmosphere, and kind of like what we have here."
At Eleva-Strum, two Cardinals are headed to play at the Division II level. Bennett Moen is off to Bemidji State, with Quinn Olson heading to conference rival Minnesota State-Moorhead.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Olson says, "I've always to play in college football ever since I was a young kid and it's always been my goal."
"We went up there on an official visit and I just loved it up there, everything about it," says Moen, "got to meet all the football players and just a great atmosphere."