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Eight North athletes sign letters of intent
February 8, 2017

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TV stations, newspapers, and other media were in the North Fort Myers High School auditorium to see one young man sign a letter of intent to attend a school he had already committed to more than a year ago.

But Za'quandre White wasn't the only athlete getting ready to ply his skills in college, though he was the only male.

Seven young women were also on stage signing their letters of intent, as hundreds of friends and teammates watched during National Signing Day, the day blue-chip athletes make their announcement of what school they will attend.

White was the big star, deservedly so. Football coach Earnest Graham, a University of Florida graduate, joked that he had hoped he would pull the blue hat out of his pocket at the last minute, but expressed great pride in his achievements.

"Z is a kid who's close to my heart. He is an exceptional talent, and when things are given to you so easily, it a lot of pressure on a young man," Graham said. "The things he has done for himself and the strides he has made shows that he really loves something."

White, who wore a gaudy Florida State suit that he picked out on his official visit and somehow made to look dashing, did what every athlete did, thank those responsible, from family and coaches to teammates.

That part got a little emotional at times, especially when softball player Summer Ackerson spoke about her coach John Keyes, who died last year. She was one of three softball players who signed letters Wednesday, and all of them made sure to thank him.

The athletes were:

* Lexi Graber: gymnastics: University of Alabama

* Kayla Easterly: track & field: Florida State

* Matelyn Booth: volleyball: Florida College

* Shelby Coyne: softball: Pasco Hernando State

* Mackenzie Peterson: softball: Florida Southwestern

* Summer Ackerson: softball: Florida Southwestern

* Kendall Davis: soccer: Keiser University

* Za'Quandre White: football: Florida State

Afterward all the athletes showed their sense of pride.

"I finally accomplished the goals as a young child. I put in the work in the classroom because you have to have the grades, and I finally did it," White said. "When Florida State made its offer, I knew I could do this."

Peterson was thrilled about her future and the thought of playing alongside Ackerson, who she's played with since she was 8 years old, and well as the business at hand, which is to win a state championship for North.

"I'm excited to see how this year goes and super excited to be going to college. My travel coach is a coach there, so he can help me get better and maybe take the next step in playing for a university," Peterson said. "I'm happy me and Summer get to share this together."

Principal Debbie Diggs was especially proud at watching her first class of signees put pen to paper.

"It's a big day for the kids. It's the culmination of years of hard work and many hours from both the athletes and the families," Diggs said. "This shows how deep we are in athletic ability and how hard we work in the classroom."

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