Photo: With no shortage of emotion and pride, Irving High School Campus Athletic Coordinator and head football coach Aaron De La Torre introduces four athletes who participated in National Signing Day. /Photo by Courtney Ouellette
After four years of dedication and hard work, 21 student athletes from Irving ISD officially accepted scholarships and offers from colleges and universities. Students from MacArthur, Irving and Nimitz celebrated the official beginning of their collegiate careers in front of their classmates, family and friends at their respective schools on Feb. 2.
There was no shortage of tears and gratitude as coaches and players said a few words about each player’s high school journey and announced which school each player will attend next.
“This is one of those days when I especially love being a football coach,” said Aaron De La Torre, head football coach and campus athletic coordinator of Irving High School. “It presents an opportunity for young men and women to continue their education and to continue playing collegiate level sports. I’m proud and excited to be doing this.”
Among the four athletes from Irving High School putting pen to paper was Noah Salinas, a talented linebacker with numerous high school football accolades, including being a two time First Team All-District player, the only junior at Irving High to win defensive player of the year, defensive MVP this year as well as graduating in the top 10 percent of his class.
“I’m blessed to have such a big family, full of love and support. I want to thank all of my teachers who made all of this possible,” Salinas said. “It’s not easy teaching athletes, because we have to miss a lot of class some days, and we’re tired all the time.”
Recording 189 tackles in two years, Salinas gave special thanks to his parents and older brother, Jaxson Salinas, who plays football for Oklahoma State University.
“I was playing defensive end and second string linebacker,” Salinas said. “Coach came up to me and said ‘You’re going to play middle linebacker. You’re going to need to get faster, do you understand?’ I said yes sir.”
When Salinas was unsure about filling the middle linebacker role, his father gave him the strength he needed to get the job done.
“My dad told me, ‘Never forget you’re a Salinas, it’s in your blood.’ After he said that, he didn’t need to say more. I knew what to do,” he said.
“There have been a few bumps and bruises and a few minor setbacks, but I’m proud of being at the best school in Irving, Irving High School,” Salinas said. “I want to thank my teammates, and Coach De LA Torre for all that he’s done. He has chewed me out on a level that I can’t explain, but he’s made me a better man, football player and student.”
Salinas will play football at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Though a majority of the signees were young men, several young women, like Nimitz basketball player Sharae Chalmers, also participated in the National Signing Day ceremonies.
“I just want you to know how proud we are of you today – her teammates, all of the coaches. Boy, we’ve come a long way,” said Chalmers’ coach, Pam Owens. “I remember the first day that I met Sahrae, and right then and there I knew that she could be somebody special.”
From the beginning, Owens set out to help Chalmers grow into a skilled enough player to play college ball.
“I remember her freshman year,” Owens said. “We had a little run in, so I brought her into the office and I showed her all the things in the office about the Final Four and colleges and things like that. Right then we talked about what we needed to do to get you in a place where you could be successful, and we could get you a scholarship. Here we are four years later, and she’s receiving a full scholarship to Fresno State University.
“It took some time and heartaches and frustration, but we all came together. The bottom line is, if you stick to something and stick to your goals, it’s going to pay off for you. I always say it really doesn’t matter how you start, it matters how you finish,” she said.
Averaging 18 points and 10 boards per game, Chalmers has 16 double doubles out of 27 games so far this season. Her best game was against Irving High School, when she had 28 points and 15 boards.
“We are so proud of Sharae and the tremendous improvement through the years,” Owens said. “She is a great vocal leader for us. She’s a huge reason why right now were 18-9, we’re 8-2 in district and we’re currently in second place.”
Not only do high school sports provide a platform for students to receive a higher education at little or no financial cost, they also provide a system for coaches to instill behaviors and traits that will guide young athletes toward success.
“What I love about sports is how a coach can use it to teach life lessons and how through playing sports we can learn how to fight through things,” Owens said. “I can definitely say that Sharae had some tough times throughout her life. She just takes it one step at a time, and she never really got rattled and that says a lot about her.”
Like Owens, Coach De La Tore values high school sports for the opportunity of guidance and hopefully a continuing education.
“Our kids always come back to say thank you coach, thank you for everything that you’ve done, but that’s really not why we coach,” De La Torre said.
Although he enjoys reconnecting with former players, the best way for a player to show his or her gratitude, according to De La Torre, lies outside of athletics.
“We tell our players, the one way we want you to thank us is to graduate from college,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest and most resounding statement you can make is by finishing your degrees. Everybody might go off, but not everybody finishes. I think it’s a testament to you and your character when you can go out and do that. My challenge to you four: graduate.”
The following students participated in National Signing Dayat each high school:
Irving High School
Mar’Kel Cooks, football – University of the Incarnate Word
Kyandus Hall, football – Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Brandon Robinson, football – Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Noah Salinas, football – Southeastern Oklahoma State University
* Irving High School senior Javier Leija, who plays on a select soccer team, committed to Lipscomb University at an individual signing.*
MacArthur High School
Jake Lyons, baseball – Weatherford College
Andrew Jones, boys’ basketball – University of Texas
Abraham Lazo, boys’ soccer – Ouachita Baptist University
Rashad Fisher, football – Texas A&M University – Commerce
Marquis Haygood, football – Langston University
Artiss Henderson, football – Illinois State University
Darius Kirksey, football – Langston University
Tony McDonald, football – Langston University
Matt Price, football – Texas A&M University – Commerce
Gabrielle Gregory, girls’ basketball – University of Wisconsin
Essence Wells, girls’ basketball – Xavier University
Taylor Lampkin, volleyball – LeTourneau University
Nimitz High School
Noah Spears, football – Southern Methodist University
Trevion Sample, football – Tarleton State University
Michael Perez, football – Tyler Junior College
Sharae Chalmers, girls’ basketball – Fresno State University.