National signing day is all about donning ball caps and smiling for the camera, pens, papers and fax machines. It’s a day of speculation, projection, and proclamation that takes over ESPN airwaves and Twitter.
But for a day full of football talk, there usually isn’t too much pigskin played.
So it was refreshing, albeit a little strange, to see some brave fans in the stands and a field of blue-chippers play in a signing day nightcap, in miserable 24-degree temperatures.
In a match-up pitting the best high school players from around the world against the United States’ finest at Westlake High’s Chaparral Stadium, Team USA came out on top, 21-14.
“To share a field with guys from all over the world is great,” USA head coach Darren Allman said. “I felt that our players had a great experience.”
The game had a distinct Texas feel despite the frozen conditions. Texas commit Joe Bergeron, out of North Mesquite, split the game open midway through the second quarter when he took a fake punt and rumbled 56 yards for a touchdown. In the third, Bergeron got open in the flat and caught a 13-yard touchdown. He finished with 118 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, a strong statement made from a guy recruitniks and fans alike tend to forget about as they dream of Malcolm Brown’s impact on next year’s rushing attack.
“It was pretty fun to play here in Austin in front of some Longhorn fans,” Bergeron said. “Hopefully it’s not this cold during the season next year.”
The cold weather prevented two other Longhorn commits from having too much of an impact. Not many balls were thrown; meaning Brownwood receiver Jaxon Shipley didn’t get too many chances to show off his hands, only catching one ball. Likewise, Millwood, Okla. cornerback Josh Turner didn’t have much of a chance to exhibit his ball skills, though he did force a fumble on a kickoff.
Some other familiar names featured for Team USA should make an impact on the national landscape in the coming years. San Antonio Madison running back Aaron Green, who better get used to playing in cold weather, as he’s headed to Nebraska, had a nice return of 40 yards on the opening kickoff. Kiehl Frazier, an Auburn commit, flashed the athleticism from the quarterback position that has many recruiting analysts boldly calling him the next Cam Newton. Frazier finished with 48 yards rushing, to go with 40 yards passing in limited duty.
But the night belonged to Bergeron. Thought of as one who can play running back, fullback or halfback for the Longhorns, Bergeron’s performance all but demands a look as a featured back come fall camp. He’s a workhorse — big, strong runner who seeks contact and falls forward. On a frigid night, Bergeron was the hot hand on a team stacked with running backs.
“We wanted Joe to help us milk the clock near there at the end,” Allman said. “He’s such a powerful back and he’s the total package. There’s a reason why he’s going to UT. They got a good one.”
Bergeron accounted for more than half of Team USA’s final rushing total on the night and was named their MVP, a fine cap on his standout high school career. Next up: a chance to star at Texas.
“When the weather permits,” he said. “I’ll show you a little bit more.”