MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A lot of childhood dreams became realities for high school senior football players on Wednesday. What started as throwing the ball around with dad as a youngster, for many, turned into an opportunity to let that talent help a teenager get to college.

There were likely some nerves on the morning of National Signing Day, but it was mostly excitement. The state’s most highly touted football players put pen to paper on letters of intent, making their previous college commitments official. The most fun part of the day is the fact that college coaching staffs are as anxious to get those letters through the fax machine as kids are to sign them.

There was a camera in the Alabama football offices as coach Nick Saban got a signed letter of intent from the No. 1 overall recruit in the country, a running back. The place erupted as if they knew how big it was.

There was a similar sense of excitement, albeit on a different scale, Wednesday morning in the gym at Minneapolis Washburn High School. Jeff Jones had made a verbal commitment to the Gophers more than a year ago, but deemed it a “soft verbal” so he could still explore other schools. A standout senior season for the Millers allowed jones to get the Mr. Football award last month. He garnered more national attention after getting Co-Offensive MVP honors at the Under Armor All-Star Game.

Other schools with more national prominence came calling, but Jones stayed true to his word. Among family, friends and school administrators in a packed gym, Jones apologized to the state of Minnesota for taking so long, then put a Gophers hat on to announce his college decision and got a standing ovation. He’s the most highly-touted recruit the Gophers have gotten in years.

He was one of several kids who realized a childhood dream on Wednesday. J.C. Hassenauer of East Ridge signed with Alabama, Frank Ragnow of Chanhassen signed with Arkansas and Andrew Stelter of Owatonna will join Jones with the Gophers.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Minnesota also kept several local players in-state through the preferred walk-on route. That means they’ll be part of the Gophers football program, but not immediately on scholarship. Sometimes some of the best players in the college game start as walk-ons.

The Gophers’ group, in that case, includes Roseville quarterback Jacques Perra and Prior Lake linebacker Blake Weber. Nick Leach of East Ridge, who was a standout running back before a major knee injury, will also be with the Gophers.

Here’s a look at Minnesota’s top senior football players and where they’re headed to college. Now all eyes for recruiting turn to Cretin-Derham Hall defensive end Jashon Cornell, who will be Minnesota’s top recruit next year and has already been touted as the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

Minnesota football players
Jeff Jones (Minneapolis Washburn) – Gophers
Frank Ragnow (Chanhassen) – Arkansas
J.C. Hassenauer (East Ridge) – Alabama
Andrew Stelter (Owatonna) – Gophers
George Behr (East Ridge) – Rutgers
Zach Hovey (Eden Prairie) – Miami (Ohio)
Blake Weber (Prior Lake) – Gophers
Josh Parks (Chisago Lakes) – Gophers
Jacques Perra (Roseville) – Gophers
Davis Anderson (Apple Valley) – Gophers
Payton Jordahl (Perham) – Gophers
Nick Leach (East Ridge) – Gophers
Logan McElfresh (Brainerd) – Gophers
Brandon Lingen (Wayzata) – Gophers
Keaton Studsrud (Benilde-St. Margaret’s) – North Dakota
Eji Ejiya (Spring Lake Park) – North Dakota State
Khayvon Hawkins (Robbinsdale Cooper) – North Dakota State
Jay Marinello (Eastview) – Montana State
Gregory Menard (Lakeville North) – North Dakota State
Robert Olson (Eden Prairie) – Oregon State
Preston Woods (South St. Paul) – Northern Iowa
Drew Geely (Wayzata) – North Dakota
Grant Aplin (Chanhassen) – North Dakota
Reid Taubenheim (Farmington) – North Dakota

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