Dunbar star running back Tavon Austin is expected to sign a letter of intent to West Virginia this morning before a crowd of students, parents and media in the high school's auditorium. He will not be the only Poets player putting pen to paper, however.
Seven of Austin's teammates also are set to sign letters to play for Division I teams. An additional 10 will be signing with Division II schools. Although they are not part of the signing process, six more are committed to play for Division III programs.
"We had a great talent pool, and we were out there promoting our kids," Dunbar coach Lawrence Smith said.
Smith took over Dunbar's program in August 2007, shortly after previous coach Ben Eaton died suddenly. This season Dunbar won a third straight state title.
"I deal a lot with Bill McGregor, the DeMatha football coach, and he said for this many kids to go to Division I off one team is unheard of - particularly in a public school," Smith said. "But this is what our program is all about. You can win all the games in the world, but if your kids don't go to the next level, what does it really mean? The goal here is to give them the opportunity and the means to advance their educations."
Over the course of the past football season, Smith estimates that more than 50 coaches have visited or called the school expressing interest in his players.
"Of course having Tavon here had a tremendous impact," Smith said of the senior who earned Baltimore Sun Offensive Player of the Year honors three times. "Coaches came to see Tavon, but the goal was to have them leave talking about [someone else]. It also helped that a lot of our kids went to summer camps and made good impressions there."
Said Austin: "I am very happy for my teammates, but it wasn't me, but us as a team that got us here today. ... I am where I am and they are where they are because we worked together."
Poly coach Roger Wrenn has two players headed to Towson University. He said he can remember years when DeMatha had 11 or 12 players signed but cannot recall a local team sending eight players to Division I schools, let alone an additional 10 to Division II.
"The national stats on signings say that one out of every 10,000 athletes - from football to badminton - signs a national letter of intent," Wrenn said. "If a team has one, that's very good; if a team has two, that's amazing. To have more than that really says something.
"What Dunbar has done is something special, and they should be justifiably proud of that."