TYLER -- If there was one player in John Tyler's loaded 2013 signing class that appeared set in his ways, it was Fred Ross.

For almost 12 months, the star receiver had been committed to Oklahoma State. But after a recent official recruiting visit to Mississippi State, everything changed.

And Ross ended more than week of speculation by officially signing his letter of intent with Mississippi State on Wednesday morning during a National Signing Day ceremony in front of hundreds of friends and family members. In all, 17 John Tyler players signed football scholarships.

John Tyler football player sign their national letters of intent on National Signing Day on Wednesday. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

“The coaches, the program and the school … I fell in love with all three of them down there," Ross said. "They’ve got a beautiful campus and they treat you real well down there. I also have family down there so there’s nothing like going to a place where you feel at home.”

Ross' cousin is former John Tyler and Texas A&M women's basketball star Aqua Franklin, an assistant for the Mississippi State women's basketball team.

“She impacted it a little bit, but she wanted this decision to be all up to me," Ross said. "She didn’t really want to have a say in it, she just wanted it to all be up to me.”

Ross also wanted a chance to play in the country's premier conference.

“It’s great competition week-in and week-out," he said. "I’m a competitor so, I love the competition … LSU, Alabama, Georgia. The SEC is the best conference to play in for football.”

Ross, who is ranked No. 2 on the latest ETSN 25 recruiting rankings, also had offers from Baylor, Memphis, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Rice and West Virginia.

Friends and family of John Tyler football snap pictures with their phones during a National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

Another big story centered around defensive end Tyus Bowser, who originally committed to Oklahoma State on Jan. 24 only to decommit days later. He eventually settled on Houston where he will have the opportunity to pursue a basketball career as well.

“It’s been a struggle," Bowser said of the recruiting process. "I’ve had some hard times, but I ended up making the right choice. I’m happy with it and I can’t wait to get down there.”

Bowser (6-3, 225), the ETSN.fm Super Team Defensive Player of the Year after a 24-sack 2012 campaign, said his decision wasn't just about athletics.

"I talked to the coach of the football program and he told me was going to get me an internship in the major that I want to do," said Bowser, who plans to major in architecture. "That really caught my eye because education comes first. For him to help me out with that, it really meant a lot to me.”

Basketball was also at the forefront for Bowser, who leads the Lions basketball team in scoring and rebounding.

John Tyler's Justice Liggins (Stephen F. Austin) and Elliot Hart (Tarleton State) look on during the Lions' National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)

“I talked to the (basketball coach) and he’s a great man," he said. "He really believes in me, he believes I can really make a great contribution to the basketball program and said I’d enjoy it a lot down there.”

Greg Ward, John Tyler's record-setting quarterback, made it official with Houston after committing to the Cougars last summer. He said Houston is giving the 5-11, 165-pounder the opportunity to play quarterback.

“That has a lot to do with it because they were the one that gave me a chance to play quarterback," Ward said of his Houston signing. "I’ve just got to take advantage of it. I’ve waited for 17 years and it’s finally here.”

Ward passed for 4,202 yards with 44 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2012, and led the team in rushing with 861 yards and 13 TDs.

National Signing Day also turns teammates into future adversaries, like in the case of receiver Justice Liggins and defensive back Darion Flowers. Liggins (6-1, 190) signed with Stephen F. Austin, while Flowers (6-0, 180) inked with rival Sam Houston Sate.

“Now he’s the enemy, so I’ve just got to work to defeat him every day," Liggins said of his looming rivalry with Flowers.

Flowers added: “It’s gonna be great, man. I know we’re not going to be on the same team, but we’re still gonna have that love for each other. But it’s gonna be a battle, a battle of the Piney Woods. We’ve already got a little edge on each other, and we’re going to go hard at each other.”

Taking it all in was head coach Ricklan Holmes, who led the Lions to the Class 4A Division I state semifinals in his first season.

“It’s a very proud moment as a head football coach to see these young men not only continue their education, but continue their dream and continue to play college football," Holmes said. "They’re going to continue to be successful, and I can’t wait to see them line up on Saturday and put their uniforms on and go out there and perform and do the things that they’ve done here at John Tyler.”


John Tyler 2013 Signees
  • Porfirio Benitez, K, 5-6, 145, Texas College
  • Tyus Bowser, DE, 6-3, 225, Houston
  • Noe Diaz, K/P, 5-10, 195, Texas College
  • Necolas Edwards, ATH, 6-0, 175, Texas College
  • Darion Flowers, DB, 6-0, 180, Sam Houston State
  • Richard Gipson, LB, 6-2, 220, Lamar
  • Elliot Hart, DB, 5-11, 175, Tarleton State
  • Devonte Humber, ATH, 6-1, 200, Texas College
  • KaVante Jefferson, DL, 6-2, 195, Texas College
  • Traven Johnson, DB, 6-1, 190, Texas A&M Commerce
  • Justice Liggins, WR, 6-1, 190, Stephen F. Austin
  • Chris Mobley, LB, 6-1, 235, Tyler Junior College
  • Fred Ross, WR, 6-1, 185, Mississippi State
  • Emmanuel Terrazas, OL, 6-2, 235, Central Arkansas (preferred walk-on)
  • Greg Ward, QB, 5-11, 165, Houston
  • Jamarcus Warren, DB, 5-11, 170, Texas College
  • DeQuante Woods, RB, 5-11, 185, Texas A&M-Commerce
Friends and family members of John Tyler linebacker Richard Gipson (Lamar) take pictures during a National Signing Day ceremony on Wednesday. (© Christopher R. Vinn/www.etsn.fm)