TYLER -- Far too often, 17- and 18-year old kids are unfairly criticized for breaking verbal commitments to colleges during their recruitment process.

Those spoken agreements are always non-binding and can't be made official until the first Wednesday in February the year of their high school graduation.

The reality is that circumstances change. College coaches go elsewhere, a school with a better fit may swoop in and offer the athlete, or any number of other variables.

In the case of John Tyler seniors Bryson Smith and Damion Miller, the final two months of their recruiting process was not without their bumps in the road.

Tom Herman left the University of Houston to become the next head coach at Texas following the 2016 season, which created an interesting development for both players.

Smith had been committed to Houston since May of last year, while Miller pledged to the Longhorns in June. Then, both head coaches were gone.

“It crossed my mind, but I just tried to follow my heart," Smith said on potentially opening up his recruitment after Herman left Houston. "Your brain will take you a lot of places, but if you follow your heart you’ll be good at the end of the day.”

But despite the uncertainty that currently exists with both programs under new leadership, both Smith and Miller stuck with their gut.

Smith signed with the University of Houston, while Miller inked with Texas on Wednesday morning, part of John Tyler's 10-member signing class, which was celebrated with a ceremony at the high school gym.

Miller's recruitment, he says, was never affected by the decision of Texas to fire head coach Charlie Strong in November.

“I’ve been set on Texas, it didn’t matter who the coach was," he said. "I’ve always been a Texas fan, and I was always going to Texas even if the coaches leave. To me, players win games. The coaches teach us to be better but the players are the ones who win the game.”

And when Herman took over at Texas, one of the first things he did was extend a scholarship offer to Smith, his former target while the coach at Houston.

Miller tried his best to sway his friend since childhood to join him in Austin.

“Me and Bryson have known each other since we were young, and I would’ve loved for him to come to play with me at Texas," Miller said. "But he made his choice even though I’ve been begging him to come to Texas and switch. Because Coach Herman is gonna change the system.”

Houston decided to hire offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as Herman's successor, which made Smith's decision to stick with the Cougars an easy one.

“It was a big relief," Smith said of the Applewhite hire. "Me and Coach Applewhite have a real solid bond and have a real trust between each other. I know he really didn’t know what I was gonna do but I just tried to stay loyal to him and the university.”

Smith will follow in the footsteps of former John Tyler star and Houston quarterback Greg Ward, who capped his college career with a memorable senior season that included wins over Oklahoma and Louisville, both of which were ranked in the top 10 at the time.

“He went through this process as well," Smith said of Ward. "I really felt like Houston was the school that really looked out for me and gave me a chance to play quarterback. So I really felt where he was coming from, and he just told me to follow my heart.”

Smith said his visit to Houston's home game against Louisville on Nov. 17 was an eye-opener. The Cougars upset eventual Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson and No. 5 Louisville, 36-10, that night.

“It was real electric, and it was just fun to watch those boys put on and really stop Lamar Jackson; not a lot of teams did it," he said. "But they put a scheme together and they did it. It was just an awesome game, and I’m glad I got to share that with my brothers.”

Smith added: “It was really the people. The environment when I went to one of their games was awesome. I went to a couple of other college games and all of them were nothing compared to Houston. It was everything I expected and more, and I just felt like I was at home when I was down there.”

Miller is a key piece to Texas' 2017 signing class. His explosiveness at receiver should come in handy the next three to four years in Austin.

But his decision was based on more than just football.

“Texas was always my dream school ever since I was growing up," he said. "The education is real great; everything I’d want to be in life, they’ve got it. I could do a variety of things.”

Standing in the background during Wednesday's signing ceremony was perhaps the proudest person in the room, John Tyler head coach Ricklan Holmes.

“It means a lot," he said. "For four years these men have put themselves in a position to continue their education first and foremost, and to continue their football career. These kids put a lot into this game as far as preparation, they put a lot into their education as far as academics to get themselves into position to where they can qualify to go to these schools.”


John Tyler 2017 National Signing Day Class

  • Jackson Bridges, OL, Cisco Junior College
  • Howard Hawkins, DL, Mary Hardin-Baylor
  • Da'Qualyon Kennedy, DB, East Texas Baptist
  • Kelton McGee, DB, Hardin-Simmons
  • Damion Miller, WR, Texas
  • Dau'quawn Montgomery, OL, Tuskegee University
  • Javontavius Mosley, DB, UTSA
  • Bryson Smith, QB, Houston
  • Hakeem Williams, OL, Southwestern
  • Shaundrick Williams, LB, Mary Hardin-Baylor

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