Football wasn't the sole topic of conversation at Starkville High School Wednesday morning.
As six Yellowjackets made their college destinations official, it wasn't only the opportunity to keep their careers on the field going, but getting an education and earning a degree appeared to be a definite priority.
Defensive back Latajh Bush, who signed with William-Penn University in Iowa, was appreciative of the academic guidance received so far at SHS and even though it will be in a colder climate, looks forward to how much more he can get in the future.
"I'm proud that my parents put me through all of this so I could go to college," Bush said. "I look forward to doing more things in life and getting an education."
Bush contributed 60 total tackles for the Jackets with six tackles for loss and five sacks. He had three fumble recoveries and blocked a punt.
Along with Bush, Erik Rogers inked with Delta State University, Kelvin Young and Stanley Childs joined Itawamba Community College, and Cory Cannon and Dennis Ware are headed to Northwest Community College.
SHS linebackers coach Tate Fischer was proud to see another one of the players at his position moving on and exploring his options.
"Football opens many doors and the main thing is these kids are going to get a good quality education," Fischer said. "(Ware has) come a long way. He gave it all he's got and stepped up to the plate when we needed him the most."
Jamie Mitchell, head coach of the Jackets, told the family and friends at the ceremony Wednesday morning that being able to further an education at no cost "is an incredible feeling."
When it comes to Bush, Young, Childs, Rogers, Cannon and Ware, Mitchell knows the route they took to get to this point wasn't easy.
"It doesn't happen in a moments notice," Mitchell said. "These guys have spent four years lifting, running, bleeding and sweating. It's been such an experience and such a journey for them to get here.
"They are going to different places to play football, but most importantly, they are going to get an education. The vehicle of football to get them a chance to go to a university and get a degree is priceless as we all know."
All six players contributed in some way to the SHS defense throughout the course of the season.
Ware led the Jackets with 112 total tackles, including 14 tackles for loss. He had two sacks, four fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Once getting settled in at Northwest CC, Ware believes he'll be more of a coverage linebacker.
"I'll be helping out defending the passes and the slants," Ware said. "I'm sure we'll be playing the run too so it's something I enjoy doing."
Ware calls Cannon "a role model" and loves the idea of being able to attend NWCC together.
Cannon, who anticipates playing on the defensive line at Northwest, is anxious to have Ware play on the same side of the football with him.
"I'm very excited to have my linebacker behind me when I go up there to play to help me be better," Cannon said. "They showed that they really wanted us so I decided to go play up there."
Cannon had 31 total tackles for SHS, including five tackles for loss and one sack. He forced one fumble and recovered a fumble.
Rogers was recruited by new Delta State coach Jamey Chadwell and liked the atmosphere in Cleveland.
"He kept calling and checking on me so I felt it was the best place to be," Rogers said. "I enjoyed meeting the new defensive line coach."
Rogers had 47 total tackles for Starkville, led the team with 19 tackles for loss and tied for the team lead with six sacks. He had two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Chadwell consider Rogers a steal for his program.
"If he works and does the things we think he's capable of, he's going to have a great career here," Chadwell said. "We're pleased with him and to be able to get someone out of Starkville. We felt like he was a good player in that area so to be able to get him is huge for our program."
Chadwell plans for Rogers to be one of the defensive ends.
"We're going to let him get back there and let him create a little havoc," Chadwell said.
Like Cannon and Ware for Northwest Community College, Young and Childs decided to attend Itawamba Community College together.
"Kelvin and I are good friends so it will be easy for us to get along," Childs said. "We want to go up there and handle business like we've been taught.
"It's a dream come true to have the opportunity to go to Itawamba at the next level. I'm trying to hold back these tears and don't want to cry with all of these people here, but it feels really good."
Childs had 41 total tackles, one tackle for a loss and two interceptions for the Jackets, while Young had eight tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack and one fumble recovery.
Young said all of the SHS seniors talked about going to the same school, but glad that he and Childs have decided to go to Fulton and become Indians.
"We hope to contribute to a good team, help build and have a successful future," Young said. "I'm happy with my decision."
Last year, seven former Jackets made the same decision and all enrolled at the schools they signed with and two of those started and won a national championship at East Mississippi Community College.
Mitchell is developing a reputation for getting multiple players moving on to the next level and SHS athletic director Stan Miller credited him for that accomplishment.
"This is what we're working toward so this will be our 13th player in two years that go on and play," Mitchell said. "What an opportunity that is for them."
The signees and other seniors were responsible of getting the Jackets back to Jackson and competing for a state championship.
With the Class 5A North trophy and runner-up trophies in the room, it caused Mitchell to reflect once again on how important the players were in achieving that.
"These guys have been such a blessing for me," Mitchell said. "I think back to our trophies and these guys are part of a North State championship team and part of a team that played for a state championship this year. That's incredible."
Fischer was glad to see the players rewarded for their efforts because he knows it would have been very easy for them to fold the tent in going through sub .500 seasons and not reaching the playoffs.
"They stuck with it when the going wasn't good," Fischer said. "What they accomplished is a testament of their hard work and dedication for Starkville football."