Reflecting on Signing Day celebrations, charades, gaffes, and redemption


(Teddy Allen) National Signing Day was not in the late-’80s the circus it is today, though it was moving briskly in that direction.

I was covering LSU for The Times-Picayune. We were in the PMAC—me, a couple writers,  some sports information crew, and a half-dozen retired gentlemen in khakis, white New Balance tennys, loose windbreakers and big foam LSU caps.  

And a fax machine.

The machine whirled. One of the old guys, his anticipation impossible to contain, grabbed the fax and exclaimed, as if he’d won the lottery, “WE GOT THE STEPTEAU KID! WE GOT THE STEPTEAU KID!”

Chaos ensued. Joy! Pandemonium! Everything but breakdancing.

You’ve heard of Stepteau, right? Right.

(John James Marshall) One of the most memorable signing ceremonies I ever attended wasn’t even a signing and it barely qualified as a ceremony.

It’s also the day I realized that these things had gotten out of hand.

Friends and classmates gathered, media was there with notepads and microphones, all to witness a player “commit” to be a walk-on. Not even a preferred walk-on (which wasn’t even a thing at the time).

He was a good high school player, but he was also a little jealous that a teammate had signed the previous week (though at a non-Division 1 school). So his ceremony was quickly arranged, probably more parent-driven than anything else.

My prediction that day came true. Not only did he not walk on (the football team), he didn’t even drive on (the campus). He ended up going somewhere else, and didn’t play football.

(Tony Taglavore) My favorite signing day story came from the mouth of the late local television sportscasting legend, Bob Griffin.

Prep All-American quarterback Joe Ferguson, who had just led Shreveport’s Woodlawn High School to the 1968 state championship, was signing with the Arkansas Razorbacks at 10 a.m. sharp the following day.

But while the Knights’ phenom was putting pen to paper, Bob was still asleep after a late-night newscast, and later-night beverages (Griffin always chuckled when he told the story).

Waking up too late and in a panic, Bob called Joe’s dad.

“Joe’s gone fishin’,” Mr. Ferguson said. “Don’t know when he’ll be back.”

Mr. Ferguson told Griffin where to look. Bob hurried out, shot some footage, and motioned Joe to the shore for an interview.

That evening, Bob did a wonderful story on how low-key Joe spent his signing day afternoon.

And Griffin’s boss never knew how Bob spent signing day morning.

(Doug Ireland)  On Signing Day 1998, Northwestern State didn’t land star Natchitoches Central tailback Jesse Burton, who opted to go away for college and worse, picked the rival McNeese Cowboys.

That dampened excitement over an otherwise strong class for 16th-year Demons’ coach Sam Goodwin. Burton was a top-notch young man and a sensational talent.

Pineville coach Herbie Smith pleaded with NSU to take his prolific running back, Tony Taylor. The Demons had too many doubts.

Finally, in May, after seeing Taylor shine in track and field, Goodwin gave him his only Division I offer.

That fall, Tony Taylor became a breakout star — first-team All-Southland Conference. The Demons won the Southland and rolled to the FCS semifinals. He obliterated the school career rushing marks once owned by future pro stars Charlie Tolar, Joe Delaney and John Stephens. Taylor played behind Emmitt Smith in Dallas and won a Super Bowl ring for Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay Bucs.

Not too bad for an afterthought on Signing Day.