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Seven Royals sign letters of intent

Seven Royals signed national letters of intent during Wednesday's signing day. Pictured are (left to right) Kolade Amusan, Nico Bolden, Nathan Bursch, Mark Gores, Jalen Morrison, Jake West and Rachel Hewitt. (Bulletin photo by Blaze Fugina)

Seniors from the Woodbury football team made up a significant portion of the Royals’ National Signing Day ceremony Wednesday.

Six football players and soccer player Rachel Hewitt signed letters of intent to Division I and II universities. Head coach Andy Hill said the six players made up the largest national signing day class in the football program’s history.

One of the most recent developments in the letter signings came from Nico Bolden, who switched his verbal commitment from Vanderbilt University to the University of New Mexico just days before signing day. Bolden announced the switch in a Twitter post on Jan. 31.

Bolden had been slotted to play linebacker at Vanderbilt, and he said the opportunity to play defensive back was a big factor in his commitment to New Mexico.

“It was just a better fit for me,” Bolden said. “I felt like I would be more successful there.”

Nathan Bursch signed his letter of intent to the University of Minnesota after making a verbal commitment to the program last summer. The tight end said he was living out his dream by signing a letter of intent to the Gophers.

“I would like to make you guys proud at Minnesota, and hopefully play at the Rose Bowl,” Bursch told the crowd.

Coach Hill, who was introducing the football players to the signing day audience, talked about the challenges that Bursch faced when the program made a coaching change to P.J. Fleck. A meeting with Fleck a few weeks ago instilled confidence.

“They connected right away,” Hill said. “They talked about the future of the Gophers football program. I’m excited for him, I know he’s excited.”

Jalen Morrison signed his letter of intent to the University of North Dakota after making his verbal commitment to the program in September. The defensive lineman Morrison said he was more interested in basketball than football as an underclassman. He thanked Hill for growing his interest in football, which paid off with an athletic scholarship.

“In ninth grade, I was a basketball player,” Morrison said. “I did not want to play football. I thought I was going to be a little Steph Curry.”

Linebacker Kolade Amusan also signed his letter of intent to the University of South Dakota. When South Dakota coach Tyler Yelk made his visit to Woodbury to speak with Amusan earlier this year, Hill described the long chat they had about playing defense.

“An hour and 15 minutes later they were still there, and I walked into the room, and there were papers all over the room and they were drawing up defenses and diagramming things,” Hill said. “I felt a connection there.”

Hewitt inks letter to South Dakota State

Soccer player Rachel Hewitt is headed to South Dakota State University next fall after signing her letter of intent Wednesday.

Hewitt made her commitment to South Dakota State University last March. She was a leading scorer for the Royals as a senior this fall after missing her entire junior season while recovering from an ACL injury. She thanked coach Pat Malicki and her parents for helping her through the recovery.

“When I went through my ACL and my meniscus tear, I didn’t have a ton of voices helping me through it,” Hewitt said. “But I always had yours to count on, and I always had my parents’ to count on.”

Division 2 players

Football players Mark Gores and Jake West signed letters of intent to Division 2 football programs during Wednesday’s signing day.

West is headed to Bemidji State next season while Gores is going to the University of Minnesota Crookston.

West has been a versatile player both on defense and offense for the Royals during his high school career, including taking over as the team’s quarterback last fall.

“If they watched the film that I watched, we could put him anywhere which is going to help our program advance and help our team win,” Hill said.

Gores was also lauded for his play on both sides of the ball. He has been a mainstay as a linebacker for Woodbury, but he offered to also chip in on the offensive line this fall as well.

“Mark was, ‘This is my team. I’ll go where you need me to go,’” Hill said.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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