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National Signing Day: Spencer signs with Kansas State
Four others sign letters of intent
Jaelen Spencer had reached what he called a depression in late October.
The Sultana triple jumper’s scholarship offer from Alabama had been pulled. He was facing doubts and still recovering from hamstring injuries. He considered enlisting in the Navy.
All that had long passed Wednesday afternoon as he signed a National Letter of Intent with Kansas State.
“At the end of the day, it was worth it because it made putting my name on the paper that much better,” Spencer said.
Spencer was one of several local athletes to sign Wednesday, including two who signed Division 1 football scholarships.
Former Granite Hills star Jay Fisher James signed with New Mexico State. The Apple Valley native graduated from Granite Hills in 2011 and spent the past two seasons playing defensive end for San Bernardino Valley College. Fisher James was named second team all-conference both seasons at SBVC. He also had scholarship offers from Kansas State and New Mexico.
“(NMSU) just felt like home,” he said. “The coaches, the whole environment looks like Apple Valley. Everyone got along really well. It was an easy decision.”
Victor Valley College defensive tackle Abens Cajuste signed with Illinois, becoming the first Ram to sign with a Division I school since defensive back Johntell Franklin signed with Texas A&M in 2011. Cajuste was ranked the No. 20 junior college defensive tackle in the country by 247 Sports and a three-star recruit by Rivals.com.
“Abe gives us a big body on the defensive line,” Illinois head coach Tim Beckman said. “He will help add depth with the departure of several key seniors from the line. Abe's strength and his get-off were the things that we noticed when we originally watched the film. He plays to the echo of the whistle on every snap."
Spencer, who took third in the triple jump at the CIF State Track and Field Championships his sophomore year and has competed internationally, said Alabama asked him not to talk to any other schools after he made a verbal commitment. Then Alabama coach Dan Waters called in late October to let him know the Crimson Tide pulled their offer.
“I could tell from the tone of his voice that it wasn’t something good,” Spencer said. “At first I felt betrayed and misused and mistreated.
“I was extremely worried. I went into a mode of depression. I kind of gave up on everything. I stopped doing my school work. I couldn’t sleep.”
Spencer said he didn’t know what to do. He wasn’t receiving any interest from other schools at that point because everyone thought he was off the market.
Then he was invited to a performance clinic in the Bahamas at the end of November. That trip changed everything.
Kansas State assistant track and field coach Vincent Johnson, who is in charge of jumps and sprints, was at the camp and had recruited Spencer previously but was unaware of his free agent status. The two had a five-hour conversation one night talking about the future. At the end of the conversation Johnson said he’d call Kansas State head coach Cliff Rovelto to see about an open spot.
“The interesting thing about it was it wasn’t about me going to K-State at all,” Spencer said. “It was about me making decisions to set me up for my future.”
A week later, he was on an official visit to Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., where he was greeted by the Wildcats high jumper Erik Kynard, who took the silver medal in the high jump at the London Olympics. Spencer said he was impressed by the Wildcats’ level of detail in their training programs and the overall atmosphere. The Wildcats have produced 33 NCAA Champions, 20 Olympians and 358 All-Americans.
“I really felt at home,” Spencer said. “I thought that I felt at home at Alabama too but I was more shocked by the glitz and glamor. At Kansas State I fell into my niche.”
Fellow Sultan senior Andrew Robbins also signed. He will be playing at South Dakota School of Mines, a Division II program. Robbins played quarterback at Sultana but will move to wide receiver in college, and he was told he has a chance to start. He chose SDSM over Division III schools such as Carnegie Mellon and Pacific, where he would have had the opportunity to play quarterback.
“I went out there and really liked the coaching staff and the team and what they had to offer,” he said.
Anthony Saenz, who played football at Apple Valley his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Kaiser, signed with UC Davis, a Football Championship Subdivision program. The senior linebacker helped Kaiser to the CIF-Southern Section Central Division championship last season, recording a school record 141 tackles along the way. Saenz credited his experience at both Kaiser and Apple Valley for helping him reach college.
“It’s awesome,” Saenz said. “I’m excited to go represent both my schools and see what kind of athlete I can be at the next level.”
Silverado defensive Kyle Trammel had verbally committed to Colorado last April. However, he did not sign a letter of intent with the Buffaloes or any other Division I program. Trammel has since moved out of the area according Silverado football coach Rafael Ginorio and could not be reached for comment.
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