February 6, 2013 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:28 am
Even for some of Colorado Springs’ greatest football players the task of picking up a ballpoint pen and signing a national letter of intent can be an exhausting process.
But once the pen is put aside, and their names are signed along the dotted line these NCAA-bound football players can flash their smiles.
Their coaches and respective leagues can beam with pride too, after local schools produced 31 overall football commitments, including eight at the Division I level, who signed their national letters of intent Wednesday.
Vista Ridge’s Brandon Cartagena, one of three Division I commitments from the 4A Pikes Peak League, signed his national letter of intent to attend Northern Colorado and suit up for the Bears on the football field.
“It feels great just knowing I could have another chance to go on and play football again,” Cartagena said. “I would like to thank God, first of all, because I wouldn’t be able to do it without him. Then my family and all my coaches because I couldn’t do it all without them. It’s a blessing.”
Cartagena, Brodie Hicks (Falcon/Air Force) and Dalton Fields (Pine Creek/Wyoming) will represent Colorado Springs and the 4A Pikes Peak League next year at the Division I level.
“This is huge, just knowing all the hard work has paid off,” Fields said. “I’ve been playing football since the fifth grade. To finally accomplish the goal you’ve strived for is great. It’ll take me a while to finally come into realization with it all.”
Vista Ridge coach Les Johnson said the talent of Colorado Springs high school football stems beyond just the 4A Pikes Peak League. Instead, Wednesday was evidence of how strong football is becoming in the region.
“Things are getting more and more competitive as the years continue on,” Johnson said. “The level of coaching the kids are getting has been great. That shows up with all of the kids going to Division I schools.”
While sitting next to Cartagena at Vista Ridge High School, Aaron Johnson signed his national letter of intent to play at Division II Eastern New Mexico.
“Colorado Springs is one of the intense places to play in Colorado,” Johnson said. “It’s just we’re under the radar. We’re coming up and we’re going to shock some people in the future with what us Springs kids can do.”
Les Johnson has no doubts that Colorado Springs football alumni can succeed at the next level.
“Those guys are going to learn some new things and go against some elite athletes from around the country,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be an eye opener for them, but I think all of those kids are going to be able to compete.”
Cartagena agrees with his coach, especially when it comes to the Pikes Peak foes he battled against on the gridiron.
“Brodie is a very good athlete. He has done a very good job training,” Cartagena said. “When we played Pine Creek, Dalton Fields was one of our main worries.”
But now they are all teammates.
“We are representing the Springs now,” Cartagena said with a smile.