Mineola’s High Praise For Austin Anderson + Riley Anderson On Signing Day Has Little To Do With Football
MINEOLA -- There were no surprises during Austin Anderson and Riley Anderson's signing day party Wednesday inside the Mineola school district's board room.
The twin offensive tackles followed through on long-term verbal commitments to the Texas A&M football program. Their National Letters of Intent were faxed in even before the 9 a.m. celebration and a ceremonial signing .
All that was left to do was celebrate. In an unsurprisingly modest Anderson fashion.
"You got to see the support that was in this room today for those kids," head coach Joe Drennon said. "They've got an awesome family. Then, their church family is unbelievable. Just the community support these kids have, they're really well-respected. They're admired. They're just great kids."
Austin Anderson and Riley Anderson weren't celebrated because they developed into elite high school athletes. A crowd of about 50 family members and friends seemed pleased merely because a good thing had happened to good people.
The twins won't pay a dime for their college educations. Furthermore, the brothers have been afforded four to five more years to pursue their wildest football dreams.
The compliments and a spoken prayer offered up had little to do with runs to the 2014 Class 3A Division I state championship game and then the 2015 Class 3A Division I state semifinals. Rather, acclaim was rooted in what the two meant to the community off the field.
A community they will shortly leave.
"I'm going to miss Mineola," Riley Anderson said. "My teammates. The town. Everything about it."
Of course, football had a small role in the event.
The two tackles are among the best in the state. Possibly the very best within East Texas. Certainly the best regionally in terms of scholarship offers with 27 apiece.
The Texas A&M fan base is excited and Mineola's is ecstatic about what could happen through the next half decade.
"I'm going to go out and work my hardest every day in practice and in the weight room," Austin Anderson said. "Try to earn a spot starting as early as I can and try to help the Aggies be as successful as possible."
Austin Anderson and Riley Anderson started getting peppered with mid-major FBS invitations exactly a year before signing. Texas Tech broke things wide open in mid-February and, through April, the brothers averaged a new invitation once every three days.
Texas A&M entered the picture on April 7. The two players committed 20 days later and held firm for the next 281 days despite a handful of newer offers.
The Andersons promised they were willing to go different directions if the right opportunities came up. Hidden behind a desktop chalkboard facing their onlookers that read 'Gig 'Em Aggies,' was a chart denoting their top four schools.
Both players determined different second choices.
"We just went to the school and loved everything about it," Riley Anderson said. "We loved the people, coaches, the facilities. We just grew up loving A&M and it's what we wanted to do. It is really relaxing knowing we're going down with someone we grew up with -- My best fried. It's great. It's a great feeling."
Mineola plans to embrace the change.
The program has been one of the best on the state level the past two seasons, and it returns its entire defense from last season's state semifinals appearance in addition to its key skill players and interior line.
Current junior quarterback Jeremiah Crawford and junior running back Chantz Perkins combined for 4,518 rushing yards and 61 ground scores. Perkins also caught for 193 yards while Crawford threw for 1,361 yards.
But the program knows what it has lost. On and off the field.
"You're not going to replace an Austin and a Riley every year," Drennon said. "You're not going to do that. But we do have really good kids that are going to be good football players. We're going to be fine. I think we'll be a good team next year. These guys are hard to replace, but we've got kids waiting -- just like these two kids have done -- and they're looking forward to their opportunity. Hopefully, it will be great for them as well."