Thompson has 11 sign to play collegiate athletics

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

ALABASTER – Smiles filled a packed out Warrior Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 5, as 11 Thompson athletes signed to continue playing their respective sport at the collegiate level.

“What a great day to celebrate our student athletes and all their great accomplishments,” THS athletic director Vincent Pitts said. “This is unbelievable to see the number of athletes that have this opportunity. I want to thank these student athletes for their hard work and what all they do every day.”

The impressive signing class included six football players, including Sawyer Pate, Evan McGuire, Mike Pettway, Owen May, Carson Rockett and Ja’Vone Williams, several of whom are heading to prominent universities.

“This is one of my favorite moments that I personally get to experience every year,” Thompson principal Wesley Hester said. “They’ve opened up the door and kicked the door down to get to this point because of their hard work and determination. They’ve realized their dream since they were little babies and here they are today. Let that moment sink in for a second, because it’s one of the most special times in your life.”

Two of the football players to make it official are state champions that will start next season where they finished this past season, as quarterback Sawyer Pate and kicker Evan McGuire signed to Auburn University.

Pate finished his senior season with the Warriors as one of the most efficient quarterbacks in state history after posting a completion percentage of 74.5 after completing 226 of his 306 passes. He totaled 3,125 yards and a remarkable 41 touchdowns through the air.

His last time in Jordan-Hare Stadium, Pate threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in a dominant 40-14 win over Central-Phenix City for the Class 7A State Championship.

“Thank you to my friends and family for supporting me and for just being here,” an emotional Pate said. “I couldn’t have done this without you and now I get to experience a dream come true.”

In his one season as a starter, Pate posted the third best completion percentage in state history, while his 41 touchdowns were 12th best in state history and his 3,125 yards 28th best.

McGuire’s season and career was also special at Thompson. During his last two years with the Warriors, McGuire was a combined 11-for-15 on field goals, including a perfect 6-for-6 during his senior season. He has also made 109 of 119 extra points in the last two seasons. His longest field goal came from 44 yards out this past season. He’s also strong on kickoffs and punting.

“This team really supported me and made me want to be good for them,” McGuire said. “I want to thank them for their support and for pushing me. I also want to thank my parents who took me all over to compete in camps. I wouldn’t be here without everything they sacrificed to help me.”

In addition to those two future Tigers, Mike Pettway, the team’s leading receiver the last two seasons, signed to join Washington State University after taking several visits to different schools the last few weeks.

“God put me in this position and allowed this to become possible,” Pettway said. “My parents also sacrificed a ton to help me get here. And I can’t not thank my coaches. I’ve been through a lot of different situations here and I’m blessed they were there for me.”

Pettway totaled 1,154 yards and 16 touchdowns during his senior season alone and went for more than 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons.

Outside of that, Owen May, Carson Rockett and Ja’Vone Williams are all going on to play football at the collegiate level.

May is headed to the University of West Georgia after totaling 69 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks this past season.

“I would like to thank everyone for this season and supporting us,” May said. “That’s a huge reason for this success. I want to thank God and my mom and dad for making me who I am.”

Rockett also had a spectacular season with 45 total tackles, including seven tackles for loss and two sacks. He’s now headed to the University of South Alabama to join the Jaguars.

“I have to thank my family for always having faith in me and pushing me to work hard,” Rockett said. “It allowed me to chase this dream as did all of the coaches that helped me along the way and the support of (the fans).”

The most underrated defensive back possibly across the state this year was Williams, who finished the season as the county’s leader in interceptions with eight, while he also posted 56 tackles and three tackles for loss. He’s now headed to Tennessee Tech to continue his playing days.

“I have to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to play the sport I love,” Williams said. “I also want to thank my grandmother, who sacrificed a lot for me to get here as well as the rest of my family.

Beyond football, Nicole Nowak, ZaKiria Holifield, Zack Littleton, Molly Willis and Landon Wockenfuss each signed to continue their special athletic careers at the collegiate level.

Nowak is headed to Sewanee: The University of the South to continue playing the sport of tennis after several strong years with the Warriors.

“Without my coach, I’m not even standing here today, so thank you,” Nowak said. “I’m just thankful for this opportunity and for my family sacrificing so much to make this possible for me.”

Holifield, who is one of the top track athletes in the state and going for both indoor and outdoor state championships this season, signed with the University of Alabama at Huntsville to continue impressing in track and field.

“I can’t thank my mom and dad enough for always believing in me and always putting in the countless hours to take me to meets,” Holifield said. “I also want to thank my coaches for always pushing me to be my best even when I wasn’t feeling my best.”

A senior basketball star, Littleton has played an important role for the Warriors the last few years by helping lead a young roster. As a sharp shooter, he’s helped the Warriors spend much of the last two years as a top 10 team and he’s now headed to MUW to continue playing the sport he loves.

“I want to thank God first and foremost for blessing me with the ability to play this sport,” Littleton said. “Secondly, I want to thank my parents and my family for the support they’ve shown. My friends have also played a key role in this thanks to always being there for me and showing their support.”

Willis has been a member of the Thompson volleyball team the last several years and helped lift the Warriors back to the state tournament during her senior season and is now headed to Auburn University in Montgomery.

“I’m excited to continue this journey of my volleyball and academic career,” Willis said. “The past few weeks, I have been speaking with coaches and making multiple visits. While time consuming, I wanted to make the right decision, but my amazing coaches and my parents and family helped guide my steps.”

Wockenfuss, who is one of the state’s best golfers and is looking to close out a strong career this spring, signed to continue his career locally in Shelby County with the University of Montevallo.

“My mom, dad and sisters have all sacrificed a lot for me during my long days out on the golf course and I appreciate them for what they did,” Wockenfus said. “Thank you to everyone for your support along the way.”