St. Mary’s celebrates football signings by Parker, Watson

HAPPY TIGERS:  St. Mary’s football coach Aaron York (standing, red shirt, middle) is flanked by quarterback Adam Parker and his parents (at left) and linebacker Logan Watson and his parents at a signing ceremony Wednesday.

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

To celebrate a landmark occasion, it’s best to be surrounded by family and friends.

Adam Parker and Logan Watson certainly were Wednesday morning as the graduating St. Mary’s football standouts were the guests of honor at a signing ceremony in the SMHS gym. Fellow students and teammates were joined by school officials, school supporters and the families of the two Tigers.

Parker, the quarterback for St. Mary’s state quarterfinalist team last fall, will play at NCAA Division II Southern Arkansas in Magnolia, just across the state line from Springhill.

Watson, a linebacker for a rugged Tiger defense, is headed to the DFW Metroplex, enrolling this fall at Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth.

They helped St. Mary’s to an undefeated district championship season and its best playoff push since 2016. Parker was the District 1-3A Offensive MVP and Watson was a first-team all-district linebacker.

Parker is a starter on the Tigers’ powerful basketball team that plays a huge district game tonight at Northwood-Lena, with a chance to salt away the district crown if it can sweep the season series.

Watson took up wrestling three months ago and has already earned a spot on the Texas Wesleyan wrestling team for next winter.

It wasn’t predestined for Parker to choose SAU, but the stars were lining up for months, or even longer, since the Muleriders hired former Northwestern State offensive coordinator Brad Smiley as head coach last winter. Smiley’s son Ben was a teammate and pal of Parker and Watson. Smiley’s offense was a perfect fit for the SMHS QB.

“I’ve visited there five times now, and each time it feels more and more like home,” said Parker. “I have friends up there. Coach Smiley is a friend of our family, a great guy and an even better coach.  It felt like the only logical choice I could make.

“I fit in really good. They run a spread offense like we do, a lot of no huddle, and that’s how I like to play, fast-paced.”

The occasion Wednesday morning, a week after both Tigers’ college decisions were announced, couldn’t have been better for them.

“It’s a dream come true, a goal I’ve worked toward almost my entire life. To do it in front of everyone at my school and in my family, it felt amazing,” said Parker, a 4.0 student planning to major in chemical engineering.

Watson’s college choice developed in the second half of St. Mary’s season.

“I did not know about Texas Wesleyan until about halfway through the season, when they started recruiting me. The more I looked at them, I just fell in love with it,” he said.

On his official visit, with his parents, TWU made a great impression both with its football program and academic culture.

“We got to talk to some of the players, and they weren’t trying to do a sales job. It sounded like a home you wanted to be welcomed into,” said Watson. “I talked to some of the teachers and professors, and they seemed really great and it seemed like a good place to go.”

He’s going to major in exercise science with intention to become a physical therapist. He is embarking on a plan to “get bigger and stronger” because he knows that’s necessary to succeed at the NAIA football program and even on the Rams’ wrestling team.

With more talented Tigers coming back for the 2023 season, it’s very likely St. Mary’s head coach Aaron York will be staging another signing ceremony at this time next year. Wednesday’s version is one the Parker and Watson families will savor forever.

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