By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
By Dave Ruthenberg
Three Plainsmen — Seth Handley, Logan Miller and Lance Smith — inked their names to letters of intent to play football at the collegiate level Wednesday at the Enid High School library in an event attended by several dozen well-wishers, including parents, coaches, classmates and teammates.
Handley will be attending East Central University in Ada, while Miller and Smith will be heading to Northwestern Oklahoma State in Alva.
It was an occasion Enid head coach Steve Chard felt was as important for the trio of Plainsmen as well as for the rest of the team.
“I wanted them (the rest of the team) to see this,” said Chard. “It’s a little motivation and hopefully they will want to be sitting there (at the signing table) themselves next year. To see the reward.
“But this is nothing unusual for Enid,” Chard said. “This is a normal thing for Enid to have kids go and play college football. We also should have several players from this year’s team that will have the chance to walk-on.”
All three players signing on Wednesday parlayed standout senior seasons into college offers.
Seth “Popeye” Handley grabbed the most headlines for the Plainsmen this past season, rushing for 1,240 yards and 10 touchdowns, and earning 6A All-State honors from the Oklahoma Coaches Association. His rushing total for the 2012 season was the fifth-highest in school history and he finished fourth all-time with more than 2,200 yards rushing in his career.
Handley owns four of the top 10 spots on Enid’s all-time single-game rushing list.
This past season, he rushed for 336 yards against Stillwater (second all-time), 243 yards (fifth all-time) against Choctaw in the season-opening win, and 213 yards (10th all-time) against Guthrie.
He previously set the all-time single-game mark with 377 yards against Bixby in 2011.
Handley said he was impressed with the East Central coaches and campus, making it an easy decision once the Tigers offered.
“When I got there the coaches were really awesome and nice,” Handley said. “They have my area that I want to major in, which is sports conditioning.”
His choice of a major should come as no surprise as the 5-foot-7, 170-pound Handley earned his nickname of “Popeye” early on at Enid due to his muscular build and commitment to working out.
Handley said he hopes to play right away for the NCAA Division II Tigers who finished 6-5 last season and 4-4 in the Great American Conference.
“I was told I will probably play a little tailback, slot, kick returns and maybe punt returns,” Handley said.
“Seth has explosive speed and has the ability to run, catch and return kicks,” said ECU head coach Tim McCarty at the school’s press conference announcing the Tigers’ 2013 recruiting class. “He is a special player in multiple phases.”
Handley said getting to college and the potential to earn a degree were his priorities and was the pay off for the hard work he put in.
“Definitely getting to college was the objective,” Handley said. “Going to college and getting a degree, that’s going to be the rest of my life, it’s really important.”
Chard believes Handley has the tools to make for a successful transition to the college game. “To make All-State at running back is the real deal,” Chard said.
Another player that earned statewide recognition was defensive tackle Miller, who was named to the 6A coaches all-star team after a senior season that saw him lead the team in quarterback sacks and deliver several timely stops.
Miller said he chose to play at Northwestern Oklahoma after also receiving interest from East Central, saying he was swayed by the opportunity to play right away for the Rangers.
“I was contacted by their defensive coordinator (John Falvey) about a week after the season,” Miller said. “Getting to play in my first year was important.”
Miller, who stands 6-feet and weighs 315 pounds, is excited for the Rangers program which moved up to NCAA Division II last season, joining the Great American Conference as a provisional member. The Rangers finished 4-7, but on a four-game winning streak.
“They started 17 freshmen last season,” Miller said. “They are up-and-coming.”
He expects to play at defensive tackle. “I think I can step right in and play and help stop the run,” Miller said.
Chard also believes Miller can be an immediate impact player for NWOSU. “He’s a big nose guard that can really play the middle. I know we are going to miss him.”
Miller is undecided on a major at this time, saying he plans to take his core courses over the next two years and then decide on a major.
Also signing to play for the Rangers Wednesday was defensive end Smith.
Smith developed over the season into one of the Plainsmen’s most reliable defensive performers.
“He came in a little raw,” Chard said. “He played every game at defensive end and really got better as we went along. He worked very hard and that’s really all we can ask. The sky’s the limit.”
Smith said he was contacted by NWOSU shortly after the season, and after talking with those who were familiar with the program, including Enid assistant coach Kyle Hilterbran, made his visit and quickly committed.
“One was all I needed,” Smith said. “I knew somebody would come and look at me and it was good to know my hard work paid off.”
He also said NWOSU’s moving up to Division II made the school an attractive option.
Smith said he was told he likely would redshirt in his freshman season so he “could get bigger and get more experience,” but doesn’t view that as an issue. “I like working out and that’s what I will be doing,” said the 6-foot, 215-pounder.
He expects to play defensive end and maybe even tight end. “They asked me if I could catch the ball and I told them I could,” he said.
He plans to major in music with an eye toward becoming a music producer.
“This is my next step in life,” Smith said. “I’ve got a lot ahead of me.”