By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– As the Signing Day ceremony in the little theater at South Salem High School wrapped up Thursday afternoon, each of the three signee’s spoke to the relatively large group of attendee’s in front of them, thanking them for their support through the years as Saxon athletes.
Johnathan Thompson, Beau Smith and Aaron Zavala.
In that order they walked up to the podium to say their thanks as Zavala was the last one to say his thanks in a University of Oregon polo shirt with Green and Yellow balloons were tied down next to him as the senior finally signed his Letter of Intent to play for the Ducks.
“It wasn’t bad, I just spoke from my heart and thanking everyone that was there for me so it wasn’t that bad. You just got to go in for it,” said Zavala. “It’s pretty relieving now that I can just focus on playing and worry about baseball season.”
Prior to The Big Three talking, Saxon Head Football Coach Scott Dufault spoke about Smith and Thompson before South Salem Head Baseball Coach Max Price took over at the podium to talk about Zavala.
But, coaching Smith as well in baseball, Price couldn’t help but to throw Smith some heat about him wearing shorts in Minnesota at St. Olaf’s College and the similar before diving in to talk about Zavala.
For Smith, it was cool to see his baseball coach do that for him.
“Oh it’s awesome, it’s great. Coach Price, I have a great relationship with him. It’s awesome overall,” said Smith on his baseball coach.
The journey for Smith to NCAA Division-III football has been an interesting one, being a three-year letterman on the line as a offensive tackle for the Saxons Smith suffered a devastating knee injury as he cut weight from 310 pounds or so down to 275 pounds as he came back to full health.
“It’s pretty amazing, I have a great support at home trying to get me to get better. It’s really like a drive,” said Smith who picked up some All-League honors his senior season while averaging about 100 snaps a game. “You want to get better, you want to be out there. My goal is to be the best offensive tackle in the league up to that point and I think I was able to come back.
“I think it definitely shows people that if you do have a injury, it depends on how much you work and how much you want it.”
And as he joins a Oles squad that went 4-6 in 2017, he hopes to carry over what made him successful at South Salem High School.
“I think I bring a great edge,” said Smith. “I bring a great tenacity, great overall leader for their team that I think they need at this point and time.”
Thompson, too a three-year letterman that played every spot on the offensive line for the Saxons, looks at his versatility and his leadership from being the lone senior on the South Salem wrestling team that featured 22 athletes combined that were freshman or sophomores as he’s taking his talents to the College of The Siskiyous in California.
“It definitely just helped being able to show by example. Everyone looked up to me during wrestling and football it was easier to play with wrestling and all that stuff,” said Thompson as he prepares to play offensive line for the Eagles in the Fall. “It was a great program, (College of The Siskiyous) are really good and win a lot of games so I felt like it was the best place for me to go.
“I went to a couple of other colleges and it was the one that felt like home to me.”