Local stars shine on National Signing Day

Charlotte Guedry
St. Amant’s Justin Manton signs with the University of Louisiana-Monroe Wednesday afternoon in the school library as photographers capture the moment. Manton was among eight local student-athletes who celebrated their commitments on National Signing Day.

Dutchtown and St. Amant high schools were exciting places to be Wednesday, Feb. 2, as both schools saw student athletes move to their next levels by hosting signing ceremonies.

A total of eight students from the two schools put pens to paper, as they commited to joining college and university teams in both Louisiana an Mississippi.

For Leon Blouin, Dutchtown’s star quarterback who signed with Tulane University, the moment was better than he expected.

“I never thought there would be this big of a crowd,” he said. “I thought it would just be my family. I’ve spent the last four years dreaming of going to play at a Division I college, and now it’ like everything I’ve worked for and dreamed of has come together in this one moment.”

Blouin compiled an impressive senior campaign in 2010, which included all-district 6-5A, all-metro and all-parish honors. He was also an all-state honorable mention.

His teammate in the Griffins backfield, Effrem Reed, signed with the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

“I didn’t know this many people would be here,”?Reed said. “I am so gratful that everyone cared so much to come out and support us. This is a blessing and a dream come true.”

Reed also enjoyed a stellar senior season as he received all-district and all-parish honors. He was the all-metro offenive MVP and made the all-state team.

Signing commitment papers to colleges and universities is a huge turning point for young athletes, and many were pleased that they signed with the schools they had longed to attend.

“My family are alumni at Mississippi State,” said Maureen Gross,  a track and field athlete at Dutchtown. “Now I get to go there too. It’s so exciting.”

Aside from her track and field accomplisments, Gross is also a standout on the Griffins basketball team.

“This is amazing. It’s absolutely unbelieveable,” said Lexi Gibbs. a star on Dutchtown’s girls soccer team. “I just signed with LSU. It’s where I wanted to go. It’s close to home, and my family can see me play. I’m now a Tiger!”

Over at St. Amant High, three-sport standout Justin Manton signed with the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

Aside from his impressive baseball and basketball accomplishments, Manton has excelled on the football field as a kicker and punter.

As the St. Amant senior told it, he had some help getting to the signing table.

“I thank God for the abilities He’s given me, my family for their help and my teammates,”?Manton said. “I couldn’t have done this without them. This moment is awesome. It’s great to have everyone behind me.”

The crowd in the St. Amant library watched a video of Manton’s accomplishments over the years, beginning with his early days in the back yard kicking with his father. Flash forward a few years, and he was seen booming punts more than 60 yards and hitting 50-plus yard field goals, including a school-record 54-yard kick.

To many of the young, rising stars, the day’s events were difficult to put into words.

“This is so surreal,” said Colby Crysel, an offensive lineman on the Dutchtown football team who is heading to Louisiana College. “I’ve grown up wanting to play football my whole life, watching people like (former Griffins) Eric Reid and Eddie Lacy. Now I’m going to be doing the same thing.”

Being put in the spotlight is a normal routine for these young, talented athletes, but just what does it feel like to have all the eyes on you as you sign those papers?

Friends Shaquille Lewis and Johnathan Darville from Dutchtown, who will both be attending Louisiana College, perhaps said it best.

“Most people never get this opportunity,” said Lewis. “Sharing this with my firends and family is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“This is just so big,” said Darville. “I thought about this, and looked forward to it one day happening, and now it has. It’s huge.”

Lewis and Darville were key cogs in the Dutchtown defensive backfield last season as the Griffins went on an unprecedented postseason run.

Sports editor Michael Tortorich contributed to this article.

Dutchtown’s Effrem Reed, center, smiles after signing with the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Wednesday afternoon in the school gym.