A day of celebration at Central High's East Campus on Wednesday drew more than 300 people to its stylish Performing Arts Center to recognize 12 Grizzlies who signed national letters of intent.
The dandy dozen of boys and girls representing four sports sat behind tables on a stage, and at the center of them all -- he knows no other position on stage, on or off the field, right? -- was Michiah Quick in a black tuxedo as electric as his game.
Eventually, he would add to his digs a black hat with silver lettering: SUGAR BOWL CHAMPIONS.
That meant Oklahoma, which beat Alabama 45-31 in the Jan. 2 bowl, had also won the sweepstakes for an aptly named football player.
And by 3 p.m., when the party began at Central, Quick's decision -- broke first by The Bee -- had long circulated nationally.
The bidding was intense for a receiver ranked fourth nationally by Rivals.com and one of the most coveted recruits in the 121-year history of Central Section football.
All Central's career-leading receiver and kick returner did -- finally, by 7 a.m. Wednesday when he faxed his signed letter to Norman, Okla. -- was say "no" to the Who's Who of college football lore.
Notre Dame. Alabama. USC.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
"It came down to Oklahoma and Notre Dame," he said, "and Norman feels more at home than South Bend."
He said he went to bed Tuesday uncertain of his decision: "I was still figuring it out, thinking where did I want to spend the next three or four years of my life. I wanted to keep it on the low and make my family proud. As the third youngest of seven children, playing college football is real big in my family."
At Oklahoma of the Big 12 Conference, Quick will be reunited with former Central teammates Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore, both freshman defensive backs.
And there's yet another Fresno connection in Courtney Viney, a Sooners defensive graduate assistant from Edison.
But Quick said they hardly influenced his call: "A little bit, but at the end of the day I had to make the decision for myself because they're not strapping on my cleats. I'm doing everything on my own, so my decision did not evolve around Hatari and L.J."
Quick was then asked the experience denying the likes of Notre Dame, Alabama and USC: "You've got to know exactly what you want when you sign that latter; you can't have any look-backs."
Alabama coach Nick Saban, naturally, emphasized the Crimson Tide's three consecutive national titles from 2010-12 when courting the 6-foot, 170-pounder.
"Yes, he sold it hard," Quick said. "But it came down to me feeling at home, and OU is where I feel best."
End of the day OK for Sharif Williams
More than five months after blowing out his left knee in a season-opening 31-7 loss at Valor Christian of Colorado -- an injury that forced a total knee reconstruction and wiped out his senior season -- Central two-way lineman Sharif Williams was smiling and standing tall in a red and blue Arizona Wildcats hat.
"It's been a different journey," said the 6-3, 295-pounder, whose scholarship offer was honored all along by the Pac-12 school. "Whatever's in God's plan for me."
Williams, who will enroll at Arizona for the spring semester of 2015, said rehabilitation has gone well: "Excellent, better than expected. Everything is projecting OK.
"Missing my senior year was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. I felt I let my team down, though technically I didn't. But I wanted to play with my brothers."
They included running back Nick Wilson and defensive back Devon Brewer, who will join him at Tucson, Ariz.
Central's football program, with six signees Wednesday and nine in two years, also will advance lineman Tashon Smallwood to Arizona State and defensive back Teofilo Freeman to Northwestern Oklahoma State.
Grizzlies student-athlete operation working
Central's concept of identifying district college prospects early -- middle school and as freshmen -- and educating their families on NCAA academic requirements has been enormously successful.
That's evident in the numbers -- 27 Grizzlies athletes have signed college scholarships since 2009.
"We are leaving nothing to chance," said Central district Athletic Director Rich Clayton. "The success is in the we-not-me idea we embrace. It takes good people, culture and a system to carry it out. And when you have people who don't care who gets the credit, you've got a unique thing."
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