Seated at a table, Blake King gripped a pen and sported a smile on his face. His mother, Paula, held the camera to capture the moment. She then paused and adjusted his hat. The photograph had to be perfect, capturing a memorable occasion.
The Minooka, Ill. offensive tackle had signed his national letter of intent, officially making him a Northwestern Wildcat. There were no national television cameras to capture the scene, nor slimey boosters looking on. It was just a mother, her son, and a dream being fulfilled.
National Signing Day is widely celebrated throughout the football world. For the diehard fans, it's about star ratings, recruiting rankings, and fawning over their team's future stars. Boundless hype is built with each 40-yard dash time and bench-press total.
It's viewed by many as a filthy day for amateur athletics. These are just 17-year-old kids!
But that's where perspective is often lost. These are just kids—and very special ones, too. This is a day each kid will forever cherish.
Matt Alviti walked alone down a hallway of Maine South (Ill.) High School early Wednesday morning. He was proudly donning a purple sweater and tie. He had just faxed in his letter of intent to Northwestern.
The talented quarterback approached his coach of three years and two championships, Dave Inserra, and shook his hand.
"Congratulations," the coach said to greet his quarterback, whom he once entrusted to lead his program. Inserra has been along for the whole ride with Alviti. He served as a mentor and friend while helping the quarterback reach his potential.
Both Alviti and Inserra were gleaming with pride.
"I'm just really excited for him," Inserra said. "Really happy for him."
Before the selection of a hat, the unveiling of a live animal (in some cases), or the signing of autographs, there are countless hours of dedication. For the kid, it's a commitment to early-morning workouts and two-a-days in the hot summer sun. For the parents, it's daily drives to and from practice and dollars spent on personal trainers. All is done to reach the dream.
For years to come, Signing Day will be about unfiltered excitement. There will forever be five-stars and blue chippers.
The message-board banter and star-system ratings didn't matter inside that quiet Minooka classroom or the Maine South hallway. It was a day filled with pure jubilation, and one that won't be soon forgotten.