By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Multipurpose Athletic Complex was the site for one of the biggest mass signings in the history of Belton Tiger Athletics.
Eight Tigers inked letters of intent to attend college and play sports at the next level in the presence of nearly 400 people.
Shane Stafford and Ethan Williams will be attending Midland College to play baseball, Blake Odell and Ryan Diaz will be attending Hardin Simmons University to play soccer, Haygen Tibbetts will be attending Texas Lutheran University to play football, Matt Chapman will be attending East Central (Okla.) University to play football, McKinzee Robinson will be attending Temple College to play volleyball and Coby Potvin will be attending Temple College to play baseball.
Stafford, a two-sport star for the Tigers, opted for baseball and felt that Midland was the best place to play, while getting a quality education.
“Midland College was a great choice school-wise,” Stafford, said, who will complete his general studies before committing to a major. “They showed a lot of interest early on and they did everything they could to make me feel at home. I chose baseball, because my focus had been on football these last four years. It will be nice just to focus on one sport.”
Trying to plan for life before college, Stafford will have plenty of time to enjoy his summer, especially with not focusing on football.
“I was sitting down the other day and trying to plan out my summer with all of the free time that I will have,” Stafford said. “Because it was workouts and 7-On-7 and things like that.”
Having former Tiger teammate Williams on the team with Stafford will benefit the both of them.
“It will be comforting for both of us with being far from home,” Stafford said. “It will be a familiar face to be there and say ‘I know that guy’ and have known him since we were little, so it’s someone to talk to.”
Stafford learned from his four years in the Belton athletic program the meaning of hard work and dedication.
“They taught me a lot about work ethic and building a team,” Stafford said. “About building character and about being the best you can be, regardless of the circumstances. I think that has put me in a good position to excel at the college level.”
Williams, a reliever on the Tigers’ baseball team, looks at Midland as an opportunity to play some more baseball, while getting to study to be either a baseball coach, a head coach or game warden.
“In all of the research that I have done, it’s a really great baseball program,” Williams said. “I knew Shane was heading up there and that I had a chance. I went up, tried out and I liked it. It all went well.”
Williams also learned a great deal about hard work, playing for coach Eddie Cornblum and his staff for the past four seasons.
“The work ethic is the big thing that I take away from the Belton experience,” Williams said. “We were taught to give 110 percent in everything that we do. I think that bringing it out there will show the coaches what I am worth.”
Tibbetts took a situation where he was a backup quarterback and turned it into a great situation where he was not only the punter, but he also was a huge key as a receiver on offense. He figures in to be a success at Texas Lutheran.
“I’m excited because they are building a great program down in Seguin,” Tibbetts said. “I was able to capitalize on the opportunity that Coach Shipley gave me. It showed me that I could be a team player before actually being a player. I feel I will fit in perfectly down there because they need leaders.”
Tibbetts will miss the small-town feel of Belton, but knows he is less than two hours down the road.
“I am still close to the family here,” Tibbetts said. “It’s a big thing. It is different not rooting for UMHB anymore, because I will be going up against them a lot.”
Tibbetts learned in his time in Belton that opportunities are golden when they are presented.
“I learned that you don’t take anything for granted,” Tibbetts said. “Anything can change at any moment. You just have to be ready for anything that is coming at you.”
Chapman will be in the secondary, playing strong safety for Division II East Central and will fit in a good education during his football career in Ada, Okla. He chose East Central over UMHB, Howard Payne and West Texas A&M.
“I really liked the campus,” Chapman said, who will major in biology and pursue a career in physical therapy. “UMHB and Howard Payne both talked to me and West Texas called for a visit, but the visit didn’t happen.”
Chapman will miss his teammates the most when he leaves Belton.
“I will miss the football team,” Chapman said. “I learned a great deal from the hard work that we put in on the field and the team that we put together. It was a great group of guys. But I will have that up in Oklahoma with new friends.”
Playing for Coach Shipley and former Belton head coach Rodney Southern, Chapman learned that the adjustment in different coaching styles meant being flexible. But the work ethic is always the key.
“With the coaching change, I learned the importance of being coachable,” Chapman said. “With having coach Mac (former secondary coach Jerrod McCollister) and then having coach (Phil) Shaffer, it’s different coaches, different styles but same hard work.”
Odell, the offensive MVP of District 12-6A in 2015 for Tarcisio Mosnia’s Tigers’ soccer squad, loved the campus and looks forward to playing in the American Southwest Conference with the Cowboys.
“I am so excited about the opportunity,” Odell said. “I love the coach and the team and got to play some with them. It’s going to be awesome.”
Belton soccer alumni are becoming more and more frequent in the American Southwest Conference. Odell looks forward to playing against former teammates, like Angel Hernandez at University of the Ozarks and Brandon McGibney at Howard Payne.
“The intensity of the college level is amazing,” Odell said. “I can’t even put into words how excited I am.”
Coach Tarcisio Mosnia sets the pattern of expectation in the Belton system and it is something that Odell will take to the next level with him.
“Coach Mosnia always stressed to us to give everything you have,” Odell said. “It paid off and I can’t thank him enough. Chris Johnson was my select coach and I can’t thank him enough as well. It has been a blessing.”
Diaz, a First-Team District 12-6A player, was one of the leading scorers and is excited to be teamed up with Odell once again, this time for Hardin Simmons.
“I’m pretty excited about attending Hardin Simmons,” Diaz said, who will study kinesiology. “Everything about it: Abilene, the university, the team. I felt comfortable with the team and they took me out to lunch. We just clicked. I feel like I will be a pretty good fit there. The talent there is amazing. There will be a lot of learning involved.”
Diaz is also looking forward to the American Southwest Conference playing experience in the same way as Odell.
“Belton is one of the best soccer teams in the state,” Diaz said. “Going up against former Tiger teammates in the conference will be a fun test and I look forward to the challenge.”
Diaz, admittedly diminutive, said that Mosnia taught him to always try.
“He told me to never give up,” Diaz said. “He taught me to play 10 times my size because it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Robinson, a standout for Stacy Meyers’ Lady Tigers volleyball team, is looking forward to taking the court at Temple College and getting her general studies out of the way in preparation for a career in physical therapy.
“TC was the best choice for me because it is so close to home,” Robinson said. “I also like the girls that are coming into TC. It’s going to be a great fit for me and I feel confident that we are going to go far with our season.”
The North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference has quality competition, Temple College included. The level of competition helped fuel Robinson’s decision to challenge herself.
“I love volleyball with a passion and I want to see how I like college volleyball,” Robinson said. “Who knows where I’ll be in two years, but if I like it I may try to go to a four-year university.”
Coaches Stacy Meyers, Jordan Petter, Whitney Landers and Dorothy Payne have made an incredible impact on the volleyball program in Belton. The relationship between the coaches and the players is a close one, which is something Robinson will miss.
“I used to be quiet and shy,” Robinson said. “They taught me to be a vocal leader and lead by example. I will miss them and know that they will be close by if I need advice.”
Having offers from other schools, Potvin chose Temple College to play for head coach Craig McMurtry and assistant coach Frank Kellner, while completing general studies.
“It’s awesome to be able to put on the Temple College uniform and play where I grew up,” Potvin said, who will complete his general studies before declaring a major. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the program. They will help me grow and improve my game to move to the next level.”
The importance of academics is primary to Potvin, who had a couple of other offers. But staying at home, close to family helped his decision.
“We’re always taught as student-athletes that academics come first,” Potvin said. “I don’t have a problem staying home, especially with playing for a team like Temple College.”
A three-sport athlete in Belton, Potvin has learned many lessons from several coaches he has played for.
“They all talk about life and athletics,” Potvin said. “From the football, basketball and baseball coaches…even in middle school. I was blessed that Coach Shipley came in here. Along with him, Coach (David) President and Coach Cornblum all talk about growing as men and the memories that we’re going to make. We’ve heard it from all the way back in middle school that we’ll never forget these times. I just can’t thank them enough for it. They’ve all taught me great life lessons.”
Johnson and Alexander also give intentions
Belton running back Kavan Johnson and Tiger catcher Jacob Alexander gave their intentions to continue their athletic endeavors on the collegiate level. Johnson will play football for the Blinn College Buccaneers in Brenham. Alexander will head for Temple College to play baseball for the Leopards.