Three Kilgore High School athletes took part in National Signing Day – pretty much an annual rite of passage for KHS athletics – and one of the jewels of the West Rusk athletic department also signed his name on the dotted line.
West Rusk’s Tyree Wilson, a senior defensive lineman who helped the Raiders to another strong playoff run in 2017, signed with Texas A&M University on Wednesday, as family, friends and coaches looked on in Raider Gym. Wilson is one of the players who originally committed to the Aggies a while back, before new coach Jimbo Fisher was brought in, and remained loyal to his verbal commitment.
At Kilgore, a pretty good bulk of the student body watched as Bucky Duke and Isaiah Smith signed their letters of intent, and Ren Reynolds did, as well. Duke, a senior defensive end/ tight end, signed with Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, and Smith, a senior linebacker/ defensive back, signed with Howard Payne University in Brownwood.
Reynolds is an infielder and pitcher with Kilgore’s baseball program who still has his senior season in front of him – in fact, they’re already playing preseason scrimmages, with the regular season just days away. Reynolds signed his letter of intent with Frontier Community College in Fairfield, Ill.
In addition, Kilgore College football coach J.J. Eckert brought in a healthy class of about 30 freshmen, most of which will compete for playing time immediately. KC’s 2018 signing class includes three locals: Longview High School tight end Jaylin Brown, Gilmer wide receiver Zaquavina Heath, and Pine Tree offensive lineman Mose Jeffery, all 6-foot-4, 320 pounds of him.
See the list of KC’s incoming signees with this story.
For Duke, the trip to Midwestern State sealed the deal. Bucky’s older brother, Shadow Stokes, was a Mustang a few years ago, after helping Kilgore to a handful of playoff wins. Duke had several offers, but likes it in Wichita Falls, is familiar with the program and the area, and Stokes still lives there, a built-in support system.
Duke said he likely will play defensive end but has hope for use at tight end. Bucky helped big on defense, some things that didn’t show up on a stat sheet, but finished with 19 tackles, 11 solo, two batted passes, a fumble recovery and five quarterback hurries.
Teammate Isaiah Smith battled injuries on and off all season, but still managed to finish with 62 tackles, 45 solo, 10 for loss (led the team), two bass break ups, four blocked kicks, four caused fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Smith had an uncanny knack for being right around the ball – his junior season, he had 81 tackles, 67 solo, six for loss, a sack, a pass break-up, three blocked kicks, a fumble recovery and three hurries.
As a sophomore in 2015, he had 81 tackles, 56 solo, 12 for loss, a sack, an interception, four pass break-ups, a blocked kick and five hurries. So Smith made his presence felt as a Bulldog over three seasons.
Reynolds’s senior season is still coming, but the senior helped Kilgore to a school single-season record 26 wins last year, and to the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. He was voted first-team all-district.
Ren’s baseball journey will take him to Frontier Community College in Illinois, a college with a big enrollment but a fairly-new program.
The coach is Brandon Benton, a former assistant with Panola College in Carthage. Reynolds said he enjoyed his visit to Illinois and believes he can help make a difference for the Bobcats. There are two other East Texans on the roster: Troy Davis, formerly of Carthage, and one-time Henderson standout Grey Briggs.
Wilson, listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, finished with 126 tackles in his senior year, 38 of them for loss, seven sacks, five forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and a team-high 29 quarterback hurries. Prior to that, Wilson had 120 tackles, 21 for loss, and 6 ½ sacks over his first two seasons on varsity.