UPPER MARLBORO — After years of hard work, preparation, endless phone calls, campus visits and hard conversations, some of Prince George’s County’s top-tier athletes from Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. and Bowie High Schools had an opportunity to participate in Early Signing Day to continue their paths to stardom as prospective difference-makers at the collegiate level.
In Upper Marlboro, four standouts from the Pumas’ football powerhouse program participated in the early signing day: Quinton Williams, Khalil Gary, Isaiah Hazel and Savion Williams.
In an unexpected change, Williams signed with Howard after originally committing to Morgan State during the preseason. After garnering attention from a number of college programs after distinguishing himself as a one-of-a-kind strong-armed passer, the 6-foot-4 quarterback said his family loved the vibe and energy that Howard provided.
He felt same way during his official campus visit and when he spoke to new head football coach Ron Prince.
“When I went up for an official [visit] and I seen the guys, the entire class they were trying to bring in, I felt like I could contribute to that class,” Williams said, adding that the impact he hopes to make is to “continue the winning atmosphere that I’ve been in my whole life.”
Williams finished his Wise career breaking two records: completion percentage over the span of two years and the longest pass (95 yards) in school history. As a standout in 2017 and 2018, Williams said he had learned to “never become complacent.”
Billed as one of the Pumas’ premier defensive tackles, Gary announced he would sign with Towson University after 57 total tackles in his senior year. The 6-foot-3, 325-pounder said he will play as a nose guard at Towson but may practice, on occasion, as a defensive tackle.
“It all started with my unofficial visit in the summer. And when I went there, they made me feel like family,” Gary said of his decision. “It felt like home away from home, and my grandma really liked it. It was basically all about her, if she liked it… so that pretty much sealed the deal.”
After announcing his decision on social media on Dec. 12, Hazel, a 6-foot-1 wide receiver, confirmed that he was switching his commitment from West Virginia to the University of Maryland. The move comes after Mike Locksley returned to the area to become the Terrapins head coach after spending time as the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama.
Savion Williams, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound defensive tackle, signed with the University of Tennessee after working his way up to be ranked as the No. 1 JUCO (junior college) defensive tackle by 247Sports. He was a part of Wise’s 43-game win streak and three consecutive state titles before graduating in 2017. Williams played for Lackawanna Community College (Pa.) for two seasons, finishing with 19 tackles and a sack in 10 games this year.
Olympic sport Bulldogs make their decision
Cara Lewis, one of Bowie High School’s most-prominent volleyball talents in recent history, signed with the University of Maryland. The 6-foot-1 middle blocker excelled on varsity all four years and was a member of Washington D.C.’s Metro Volleyball Club, an elite travel volleyball team.
“Out of all the places that I visited, nothing was like Maryland,” Lewis said of her decision to commit to UMD. “It’s basically I grew up here, so it’s like home to me. I just love the staff and the players, so it was just the best choice for me.”
Lewis said that when she becomes a Terrapin, she hopes to impact the program in a way that brings more recognition to women’s volleyball in the county. She said the area is loaded with talent but is overlooked.
“Never give up” was the single greatest lesson Lewis said she learned throughout her career at Bowie. “Always go for what you believe in.”
Maryland women’s volleyball head coach Adam Hughes expressed his excitement for having an athlete of Lewis’s caliber join his program. She will be joining a program that finished the 2018 season 18-14 — with a program best 9-11 record in the Big Ten — narrowly missing out on the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re really excited to bring another local legacy into our program,” Hughes said. “Cara is an outstanding athlete and has a lot of potential to play many roles that can help us in a variety of ways. She is a great fit for our program as we move forward.”
After leading Bowie’s boys’ soccer team to two consecutive county championships, captain Jonathan Sanford signed with Manhattan College (N.Y.).
Sanford, a defender who stands 6-foot-3 and tallied seven goals and six assists to lead the Bulldogs to a 16-1 season, which ended with a 4-3 state championship loss to Bladensburg.
“Well, being one [of]the first [Bowie] players and one of the first defenders to sign Division I in a while… I guess other players can look up to me,” Sanford said.
Though he is headed to Manhattan on a soccer scholarship, Sanford’s decision to sign was supported by a focus that was largely academic.
“They have a really good engineering program at the school, and that’s what I look to study,” said Sanford of his choice. A four-year starter for Bowie, Sanford said he hopes to leave his mark at the collegiate level by leading Manhattan College to national tournament appearances.