Triumphs and Tragedy

Dreams came true for a group of Princeton High School (PHS) athletes when they participated in National Signing Day. Each PHS superstar signed a National Letter of Intent to play sports at the college of their choice. 12 students from PHS committed to join intercollegiate teams. With all this celebration, there was a serious side as well. Sadness filled the room as Allen Clay, PHS senior, struggled to give his acceptance speech. His father had passed away three days before the event.

Several PHS athletes shared with Odin’s Word their excitement about committing to play intercollegiate sports. They also expressed sadness that a fellow Viking [Allen Clay] had to deal with tragedy during what should be a happy and memorable day.

Raekwon “RJ” Jenkins was one of the seniors from PHS that had their dream come true when he signed to West Virginia State University (WVSU) to play football.

“All hard work pays off,” said Jenkins. “I earned almost $40,000 [in scholarships] for four years at WVSU. It takes hard work in the classroom and on the field to get offered.”

Athletic Director Matt Weber, Raekwon Jenkins, Kameron Keeling
Athletic Director Matt Weber, Raekwon Jenkins, Kameron Keeling

Jenkins feels that this is the first step to bigger and better things. He is happy with signing to WVSU because he feels that committing to join their football program puts him in a position to succeed and support his family in the future. His father motivated him to be the best at football. He pushed him, supported him, and helped him achieve his dream. Jenkins had determination and focus so that he could perform his best and it payed off. Out of all colleges that offered him scholarships, Jenkins felt that WVSU was the best choice for him to be successful both on and off the field.

Allen Clay’s emotional speech affected everyone present at the signing ceremony.

“Allen’s speech was very touching,” said Jenkins. “It was inspiring because he showed how strong he was. It’s amazing how he was able to have enough courage to speak.”

Matthew Arroyo was also one of the 12 seniors that signed. He signed a National Letter of Intent to play tennis at Wittenberg University.

“Signing felt like a weight off my shoulder,” said Arroyo. “I realized I was going a step higher in both education and athletics. Go Vikes!”

Arroyo was motivated to be the best he could be at tennis by Allen Aure, a two-time cancer surviving friend and first coach. Aure supported Arroyo when he first started to play and continues to support him.

Wittenberg University was the first college of his choice. It has a great education program, and offers the major he wants. The Wittenberg tennis team is giving him the opportunity to start as a freshman, which a major bonus.

Arroyo was especially affected by the death of Allen Clay’s father. “His speech touched me strongly because Allen [Clay] is one of my best friends,” said Arroyo. “It touches me even more because I was with Allen and his father the day before he died. It’s crazy. He will be missed, but he’s watching over Allen and he’s in a better place. Bless Allen.”

Adrianna King was also one of the seniors to sign a National Letter of Intent. She’s on the road to play volleyball at the University of Cincinnati (UC), Clermont. “It feels great just know that I have a set path for next year,” said King. “All my hard work payed off and this scholarship is a great reward.”

King felt like signing to the UC Clermont to play volleyball is a great accomplishment. Playing sports at the collegiate level is something that she always wanted to do. Getting a scholarship to college helped her parents, so that they won’t have to worry about the cost. Her father motivated her to be her best at volleyball because he was a dedicated athlete in high school, and got scholarships to attend college. King had to play club volleyball, send in videos, and email college coaches to get their attention. Eventually all of that hard work payed off.

King is happy with signing to the UC Clermont because she has already practiced with the team and loves the girls. They are very inspirational, the coaches are good, and they have a good record. As a bonus she loves the campus, which offers her the major she wants to study.  UC Clermont also offered her the highest financial reward.

During her time at PHS, King, had to balance school and athletics. She went to school during the day and practiced after school, doing homework in between the two. If she couldn’t do it then, King would finish her school work after practice. That makes for a long night.

At the signing ceremony, King was touched by Allen Clay’s words when he addressed the crowd.  “Allen’s speech was very inspirational because of everything that he has been through,” said King. “He is such a strong person and it’s amazing how he was able to get up there and speak in front of everyone. I’m really happy for him. His loss really makes you appreciate your friends and family.”

Allen Clay signed his National Letter of Intent to play football at Davidson College in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It feels great to know that you are going to school for free. This gives me a final pathway to success,” said Clay.Allen Clay Jr. and Senior

Clay’s father recently passed away in his sleep. He motivated Clay to be the best he could at football. He was very supportive of Clay.

It took hard work and great grades for him to get offered a scholarship. Clay is extremely happy signing with Davidson. Clay always wanted to live in the Carolinas, and it is a top 30 college in the U.S. academically. The football coaches and players are very welcoming. “There’s no fooling around. Everyone has the same mind set of succeeding. With a degree from Davidson, I can go anywhere because of all the contacts they have,” said Clay.

To balance school and athletics, Clay would go to classes, then attend practice, and finally home for a late night of homework. He would never go out on a weekday, didn’t watch television, and never played video games.

When Clay gave his signing day acceptance speech he was understandably emotional.“I thought it was going to be hard,” said Clay. “I felt like I was going to break down in front of everyone. At first, I didn’t think I was going to give the speech, but then I thought about how my father would want me to handle the situation.”Allen Clay, Jr.

Clay knew his father was looking down on him from the best seat in the house. Clay felt as if his father was giving him the strength needed to get through the event.
“He did everything he could for me [in life] and I am so grateful for that and appreciate him,” said Clay. “I want to thank him for everything he did for me. I miss him so much. Love you, Dad.”

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