Local football players sign letters of intent

Several area high school athletes took advantage of the early signing period for college football with inking their names on the dotted line on Wednesday.

Illinois State boasts a lot of local talent, and now the list is about to get a little bit longer. Guilford quarterback Julian Haynie signed to play next year for the Redbirds, but this time not on offense. The senior will transition to a defensive back for ISU. Illinois State's head coach Brock Spate is also a Rockford native, which Haynie said made the match all the more special.

"I feel like it was the right spot for me after I talked it over with my parents and coaches, I felt like it was the place," said Haynie. "It's nice to see Spack coming from East High School and recruiting hometown guys, I just love that."

Also representing the Stateline in Bloomington is EPC's Peyton Asche. The Pearl City senior signed his letter of intent to play as an offensive lineman for Illinois State. Asche said he looks forward to representing his hometown on the field.

"The more I looked into ISU the more I realized how many alumni are down there and how many people I know that are there," Asche said. "I'm really proud and excited to go down and play for ISU."

Elsewhere in Illinois, Forreston senior Sam Barkalow signed to play as a tight end for Western Illinois. Barkalow won two state titles with the Cardinals during his high school career, but said what he'll remember most are the lifelong skills he's taking with him.

"I've worked really hard for it, and a lot of it has to do with what goes on here at this program and it feels great to know that I can go and represent Forreston," said Barkalow.

Barkalow's future competition in the Missouri Valley Conference will be Auburn's Keivon Walston. Walston was named first team all-conference in the NIC-10 this past year, and said he's thankful to be on the list of local athletes who can say they're playing Division I football.

"I'll be applying discipline and leadership skills because that's what it's going to take for this next level," Walston said. "I feel blessed that my talents and academics got me to this point."

The final signing of the day came from not a Harlem senior, but a Harlem graduate. Anthony McKinney officially signed with Texas Christian University to play as an offensive lineman for the Frogs. McKinney spent two years playing in junior college at Iowa Western. The 6'7 340-pound lineman said he learned invaluable skills during that time and credits that for getting him with a top ten team come next fall.

"If you asked me two years ago, I wouldn't have seen myself here, but I'm really glad and grateful," said McKinney. "It definitely puts a lot of weight on your shoulders and it's a large load to carry but I feel confident enough in myself that I can go in and I can do it."