Standout Athletes Sign with Major Universities


Angel Briseno

Athletes took the first step into their future careers this month at Rusk High School. Signing Day has engulfed East Texas and all the attention at Rusk has been on six student athletes. 

The RHS Baseball team signed an impressive three of the six players. These signings were highlighted by national prodigy pitcher, JD Thompson. This, however, is no knock to the other two signings, Mason Cirkel and Will Dixon, who were some of the key cornerstones for the impressive run last year that landed the team in the state championship game.

With offers from prestigious schools all over the country, JD ended up committing to baseball powerhouse Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt University is usually regarded as one of, if not THE, best baseball school in the country. The flawless coaching, impeccable recruiting, and winning culture make the school an absolute dream for aspiring athletes. As one of the most prolific pitchers in the country, JD looks to take full advantage of this opportunity and achieve his lifelong dreams.

“I look forward to venturing outside of Texas and getting to create different relationships with teammates who all come from different backgrounds and all have different stories to tell,” JD said.

Another left handed pitcher out of Rusk will also be looking to take his career to the next level. Mason Cirkel signed a national letter committing to play for the Kansas Wesleyan baseball team.  Because of the school’s relative size, they usually are not able to hunt for big names in the recruiting pool. This year, however, seems to be their lucky year. Mason will bring extraordinary pitching skill and unteachable baseball intangibles to his new team. 

“I look forward to just getting out of Texas and getting a fresh start. Hopefully I can spend my four years there and then fresh out of college I can get a good coaching job,” Mason said.

The other standout, Will Dixon, signed his letter of intent to play baseball at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Will’s play last season was huge to the team’s state championship game run. As a multi-sport athlete, he is able to use his raw athleticism to do whatever he wants on the baseball field. SFA hasn’t had the most success with baseball recently and they are hoping Will can help bring some wins to their name. If he can continue his amazing play, it is almost guaranteed that he’ll make some noise in the baseball scene.

One of the non-baseball signings, Owen McCown, might be one of the biggest signings in the country. His sheer talent is next level elite for someone his age. Owen came into Rusk with high expectations and exceeded every single one of them. Now, he is committed to playing football for the University of Colorado Boulder and is pursuing a long future with football. Owen plays quarterback at an insane speed, but still at his own pace. This and all of his numerous talents make him such an elite football prospect.

Coming off one of the best receiving seasons in Texas football history, Heston Kelly inked his name on a letter of intent to continue chasing his  football dreams with Stephen F. Austin University. Heston finished the 2021-2022 season with an outstanding 119 receptions, the most in the entire state of Texas. He also racked up 1186 receiving yards, caught 10 touchdowns, and had numerous post season accolades. Heston will be going into the fall college football season as one of the most decorated and dangerous receivers in the state and looking to make some noise for himself.

“I look forward to being on another team and playing for Coach Carthel. I like the way he runs the offense, and I hope to catch a lot of passes,” Heston said.

Volleyball standout Kaycee Johnson signed her letter of intent with Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas. Kaycee played volleyball all four years of high school and accomplished many feats. She capped off her latest season with being awarded with the Co-offensive Player of the Year Award. She was also named to the All-East Texas Team. Kaycee has been described as a phenomenal athlete by her coaches. She is overjoyed with her opportunity of fulfilling her dream of playing volleyball on the next level.

Rusk has seen successes recently that we haven’t seen in what feels like forever. While we can thank many things such as a coaching staff, all brand new personnel and a new culture, players like these made everything possible. With all the momentum that these athletes have built up, they are all worthy and determined to succeed by any means necessary.