Under the brim of his large, brown cowboy hat, Port Charlotte offensive lineman Caden Marcum smirked.

Flanked by teammates Brandon Leacock and Chase Shatney at a table in the school’s media center on Wednesday, Marcum and company put pen to paper and realized a dream they had envisioned since before they were freshmen.

“It was so up and down for sure,” Marcum said. “I’ve gone through a lot of trials and tribulations, but I stayed close to God’s side and went on my official visit to Valdosta last week and I freakin loved them and they loved me.”

The trio, along with four other athletes from other sports, signed their national letters of intent to continue their athletics at the college level.

Marcum signed with the defending national champion Valdosta State University, a Division II program in southern Georgia.

After a long, drawn-out process, he feels he picked the right place.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that Valdosta is where I wanna spend the next four years,” Marcum said. “It’s just a super rewarding day.”

Leacock, a destructive defensive lineman for the Pirates, earned an offer from an offer from the historic Bethune Cookman University in Daytona.

“It feels so good,” Leacock said. “All of that stress off of me. It feels good to have a full ride and have everything paid for too. There’s nothing else better you can ask for. It feels great to go on to the next level and hopefully I can go pretty far.”

The coaching staff with the Wildcats feel they got themselves a gem.

“Brandon is fast and agile linebacker that gives you a strength at the outside and inside position, depending on where you need him in coverage,” Bethune Cookman coach Terry Sims tweeted. “He wants to make every tackle, and he really gets to the ball with fluidity.”

Rounding out the trio was wide receiver Shatney, who signed with Bluefield College in Virginia.

After constantly reaching out to the coaching staff, Shatney got his offer. The ability to get out of Florida was a bonus.

“I was hitting up the coach for a while because I just love the program,” Shatney said. “I have two friends from Cape Coral who went up there and they just love it. They have great facilities, the coaches treat you like a family. I just wanted to get out of florida honestly and experience seasons.”

In December, Port Charlotte also sent receiver Tyler Perry to a Division I college. Port Charlotte coach Jordan Ingman knows today is sweet, but it was a process started long before they signed.

“It’s a great day, but this is a day where all of the work is done long before,” Ingman said. “One thing we pride ourselves on is that every kid that is good enough to go to college, we try to get them to be a qualifier. Our academic advisor Stefanie Flowers deserve a lot of credit. It’s really exciting for the school, the coaching staff, the families and the team.”

But it wasn’t just the football players who signed.

Port Charlotte also had signings from baseball player Damien Ashley (University of the Cumberlands), lacrosse player, Brooke Ollerenshaw (University of the Cumberlands), soccer player Tori Thompson (University of the Cumberlands) and basketball player Rondell Adderly (Pasco-Hernando State College).

Email Jacob Hoag at jacob.hoag@yoursun.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJacobHoag.

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