HAMPSHIRE – Putting pen to paper on his National Letter of Intent was a moment of culmination for Burlington Central lineman James Estes.
Bittersweet, in a way.
The 6-foot, 280-pound Estes formally signed his NLI and committed to Murray State University on Wednesday. He knew it was home.
Murray State is a Division I program within the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Estes joined at least 23 other Racers recruits for their 2019 signing class.
"It's kind of the moment I've been working toward for four straight years," Estes said. "Not only sweet as it can get because I'm fulfilling my dreams of playing Division I college football."
"But, a little bit bitter, in the sense that my journey in high school is over," Estes continued. "I felt like I really had a lot of success...I really enjoyed working hard for everything I got. Now, it's nice I can start a new journey, work my tail off and see what happens at Murray State."
Estes entertained offers from three Division I programs, including Murray State, Davidson and Valparaiso.
"There wasn't a single negative side I could find about this program, honestly, even if I tried to," Estes said. "It's just a great place...all the players felt like brothers to me, and I could definitely see myself playing next to them."
It's possible Estes will redshirt next season. He will likely play center at the next level.
One of the area's top offensive linemen, Estes competed in the 2019 Blue-Grey All-American Bowl last month. Estes was among 90 senior recruits from a pool of more than 6,750 who competed at regional combines last year or were nominated by the staff. The game was played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Estes earned competition against high-profile recruits from all over the country. As a member of the East team, Estes split reps with another center during his squad's 26-7 victory.
"I was kind of awestruck," Estes said. "We walked out at the beginning of the game at AT&T Stadium, [and] it was an amazing place."
"Not many high school kids can say they finished off their high school career by playing in that stadium. [It was] definitely one of the greatest memories I think of my high school football career."
Estes, once a 135-pound freshman running back and linebacker, made the position change after his first high school season. He transferred from St. Edward to Burlington Central ahead of the 2018 season, stabilizing the Rockets offensive line from the very start.
"It was a pleasure to have James for his senior year," Burlington Central football coach Brian Melvin said. "Through our many conversations about his future, he had a goal to play Division I football. I am so happy and proud of him for following his dreams."
"The team as a whole, our [3-6] record I don't think showed how good we were last season," Estes said. "I thought we were a young team, and we were still getting used to play with each other. But, I really liked going to practice every day and the camaraderie with the guys."
Murray State recently released its 2019 regular season schedule. An early highlight is a game against SEC power Georgia.
"Playing Georgia, you know who you're going to get: You get the best of the best," Estes said. "If I get an opportunity to play on Saturday, I know my teammates will for sure be excited to have that opportunity."
On Feb. 6, Division I and II football commitments can be made by official by sending in their National Letter of Intents. The final signing date for Division I football is April 1, 2019. For Division II, it is Aug. 1.
The Chronicle has amassed a comprehensive list, sent by respective athletic directors or through Twitter announcements, of commitments being made official today or previously back in Nov. It is arranged by school. This will be updated as more information becomes available.
If there is an omission, please email Jacob Bartelson at email@example.com or tweet @JakeBartelson.
DL Ethan Towers (University of Sioux Falls)
S Nick Conger (University of Wisconsin Lacrosse)
RB Isaiah Fields (DuPage)
DL McKinley Neville (Eastern Illinois University)
Early Signing Period:
LB Michael Jansey (Northwestern)
DL Luke Weerts (North Dakota State)
OL James Estes (Murray State University)
DE/TE Cole Campbell (University of Sioux Falls)
OL/DL Frank Martin (University of Chicago)
OL/DL Jacob Uhlmann (Augustana College)
RB Reilly Waldoch (University of Dayton)
OT/DT Marshall Foerner (Minnesota State Mankato)
OT Charles Gambs (Augustana)
QB Declan McDonald (St. Ambrose)
LB John Roche (North Central College)
Jon Reid (Basketball, St. Norbert University)
Michael Jaffe (Wrestling, Harvard University)
Peter Ferraro (Wrestling, Harvard University)
Trevor Chumbley (Wrestling, Northwestern University)
Ryan Fleck (Wrestling, University of Chicago)
James Serrano (Soccer, Elmhurst College)
St. Charles North
LB Dan Daley (St. Ambrose)
S Egon Hein (Wisconsin-Whitewater)
DL/OL Johnny Ambrogio (Carthage College)
Early Signing Day Period:
WR/DB Tyler Nubin (Minnesota)
OL Alex Westendorf (South Dakota State)
St. Charles East
OL Justin Hull (University of Minnesota Duluth)
WR Dan Goetsch (University of St Francis)