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East St. Louis sends trio off to next level after capturing ninth state title

East St. Louis sends trio off to next level after capturing ninth state title

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EAST ST. LOUIS — Javontez Spraggins said he hadn't heard the song "Rocky Top" before he visited Knoxville on his recruiting visit.

The East St. Louis High senior lineman definitely won't mind getting accustomed to the iconic tune next fall after he signed a letter of intent Wednesday to play football at the University of Tennessee.

"I'm blessed to be part of this," Spraggins said. "Not a lot of people get this opportunity, so I've just got to take it to become a better person every day. They're a really good program and they work every day, there is no stopping at Tennessee."

The early period ends Friday and the regular signing period starts Feb. 8.

Spraggins's recruiting process hit hyper speed during the summer. It was a welcome change of pace for the hulking lineman.

"You're always frustrated, but you never let it take part of you," Spraggins said. "You never let it take your mentality. You've just got to keep constantly working and eventually somebody is going to find you. Like finding a diamond in the rough."

For Johnson, the recruiting process was exhilarating and exhausting at times. One of the top recruits in the state, Johnson held offers from countless programs.

East St. Louis Signing Day

East St. Louis' Antonio Johnson embraces his mother Damika Rogers after signing his letter of intent on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at East St. Louis High School in East St. Louis, Ill. Paul Halfacre,

And when he signed his name on the dotted line with Texas A&M, he finally realized his dream.

"It was a perfect opportunity," Johnson said. "I had to just wear it down to where it was the best fit for me, academically and athletically."

Johnson had 40 receptions for 837 yards and seven scores, but it's on defense where he'll be expected to make an impact.

"He's one of those (defensive backs) that's going to come down and hit you," East St. Louis assistant coach Terry Hawthorne said. "He will cover you one on one and he will take a side of the field away. (Texas A&M) got a dog who's going to give his all and do it for his team. He'll put his teammates on his back."

Johnson recorded 66 tackles and picked off two passes for a ferocious defense that led the Flyers to their ninth state championship this past season.

Walker got to watch his future team lose to powerhouse North Dakota State on TV in the semifinal round of the FCS playoffs Saturday. Walker is hoping he and the rest of the recruiting class will push the Redbirds over the edge. 

East St. Louis Signing Day

East St. Louis' Darius Walker smiles at his teammates before signing his letter of intent to play football at Illinois State on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at East St. Louis High School in East St. Louis, Ill. Paul Halfacre,

"It was a good fit for me. I liked the coaching staff that made me feel at home on my visit," Walker said. "I know they have a very good program."

Walker is ready for the next step after an impressive high school career.

"I've never been on a team of this caliber," Walker said. "To help win a state title, it was big for me. I had to work harder than I've ever worked before and stay focused. No matter what, I had to stay on top of my game."

Walker led the Flyers with 104 tackles. He also recorded five sacks and one interception for one of the more dominant defenses in the area.

East St. Louis coach Darren Sunkett couldn't help but smile as he watched the trio celebrate.

"(Their schools) are getting quality young men," Sunkett said. "Not just good football players, they're getting quality human beings who will be a positive influence in the locker room. We'll miss them here and wish them well."

Class of 2020 football signings, Division I and II

First Last High school University
Bennie Anderson Westminster Yale
Noah Arinze Webster Groves Oklahoma
Josh Baker Eureka Arizona
Donavan Bieber Columbia Northern Illinois
Itayvion Brown Lutheran North Minnesota
Lanell Carr De Smet West Virginia
Brady Cook Chaminade Missouri
Mookie Cooper Pattonville Ohio State
Jake Cracchiolo Oakville Southwest Baptist
Tyler Dixon CBC Kent State
Antonio Doyle Lutheran North Texas A&M
Jonathan Edwards Parkway North Indiana State
Brady Feeney CBC Indiana
Jacob Ferguson Troy Northern Iowa
James Frenchie Trinity Illinois
Mitchesll Gildehaus Borgia Memphis
Cameron Griffin Lutheran North Western Michigan
Izaiah Hartrup Fort Zumwalt North SIU Carbondale
Drake Heismeyer Francis Howell Missouri
Jake Holten Collinsville Southeast Missouri
Antonio Johnson East St. Louis Texas A&M
Jordan Johnson De Smet Notre Dame
Jathen Jones Carnahan SIU Carbondale
Cameron Kirkpatrick Edwardsville McKendree
Bennet Krebs Mater Dei Drake
Reggie Love Trinity Illinois
Jay Maclin Kirkwood Missouri
Julian McBride Chaminade Ball State
Joe Moore III Cardinal Ritter Arizona State
Jacob Morrissey Edwardsville Southeast Missouri
Tim Nesslage Fort Zumwalt North Drake
Cairo Payne Fort Zumwalt North Missouri State
Cameron Powell CBC Southeast Missouri
Martez Poynter Trinity Toledo
Matt Rouse Oakville Southwest Baptist
TJ Rush Trinity Miami (Ohio)
Jake Seidel Seckman Missouri State
Javontez Spraggins East St. Louis Tennessee
Kevin Tyler Ritenour Illinois
John Volmert Vianney SIU Carbondale
Darius Walker East St. Louis Illinois State
Armon Wallace De Smet Missouri State
Mitch Walters Mehlville Missouri
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