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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Local players commit on National Signing Day

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Several area high school football players signed letters of intent on national signing day Wednesday.

Sikeston offensive lineman Kevin Keller signed with the University of Missouri-Rolla, while teammate defensive tackle Justin Lowes signed with Southern Illinois University.

At NMCC, wideout Desmond Sims signed with the University of Arkansas and quarterback Brian Murph chose to attend Butler County Community College in Kansas.

At Jackson, running back Mario Whitney signed with the University of Missouri and offensive lineman Travis Dambach signed with the University of Kansas.

Cape Central's Marcus Klund will attend Lindenwood University in St. Louis, and Hayti defensive tackle Charles Gaines signed with Hutchison Community College in Kansas.


Several schools were after Keller, but the 6-foot-6, 280-pound offensive lineman ultimately picked the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Other school showing interest in Keller included Northwest Missouri State, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri State, Colorado School of Mines, Air Force and Southwest Missouri State.

"I look forward to playing football in college and getting an excellent education," said Keller. "I chose (Rolla) for the reputation of the school and educational quality. I was looking more for academics than I was for football."

Keller has a 3.98 GPA at Sikeston and is bench pressing 355 pounds.

"(Rolla) has an excellent coaching staff," said Keller. "I really enjoyed my trip there. All their players are a bunch of great guys."

Rolla was in a rebuilding stage last year, finishing with a record of 2-10. The school redshirted its entire recruiting class last year and Keller expects the same to happen this upcoming season.

His senior year, Keller was one of the top offensive lineman in Missouri, earning first team all-conference, first team all-region and first team all-state honors.

He is the son of Charlotte Mitchell and Jim Keller.

Southern Illinois

After an outstanding senior year at Sikeston, Lowes will continue his career at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to continue playing," said Lowes. "I could've gone to Northwest Missouri or some of the smaller schools, but I really liked SIU. It's close to home and I really liked the facilities and the coaching staff there. They said I will have a chance to play right away, but I will probably end up getting redshirted."

This season Lowes was the top defensive tackle on Sikeston's 6-4 team, recording 55 tackles and five sacks.

He was first team all-conference and all-region.

"I really enjoyed my career at Sikeston," said Lowes. "It's a great place to play and I'm going to miss it. The coaches here helped me through all of it and really deserve some credit for this opportunity. They did all the recruiting and send out my videos for me."

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound senior plans on majoring in physical education. He is the son of Sikeston's Linda and Ken Lowes.


Sims became one of the most highly-recruited players in the area after the University of Arkansas offered him a full-ride scholarship over the summer.

Sims originally gave the Razorbacks a verbal commitment at camp, but later took recruiting trips to Missouri and Kansas. Ultimately, Sims honored his commitment by signing with Arkansas.

"The decision I made at camp was a decision I wanted to stick with, but I wanted to check out all the other colleges and compare them with Arkansas," said Sims. "I saw what they all had to offer, and Arkansas had a little more. I really like the staff and think they can help me a lot. They have a real good recruiting class coming in, and I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Sims runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and was ranked by Rivals.com as one of the top 100 receivers in the nation.

This season the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior helped guide NMCC's football team to a 12-2 record and the Missouri 3A state championship game.

On the year, he rushed for 624 yards and caught 20 passes for 522 yards, scoring 17 touchdowns overall.

"This is a big weight off my shoulders," said Sims, who also starts for NMCC's basketball team. "I kind of want to redshirt, but if that isn't possible, I'm ready to play right off the bat."

Sims was recruited as a receiver, but could play several positions.

"This guy is a ball player," said Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. "He is so fluid. He is a gifted athlete. He knows how to break on a ball and how to hit you. We like him at receiver, but he'll play any position. If you watch him on film, he is a true difference maker."

Last year the Razorbacks finished the season 7-5, losing to No. 10 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.

"Teamwise, I want to win a conference championship and hopefully a national championship someday," said Sims.

"Personally, I want to be All-SEC and an All-American and maybe even go to the NFL someday."

Arkansas also signed Sikeston native Chase Pressley on Tuesday. Pressley moved to Fort Smith, Ark., his freshman year and went on to become a standout 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive lineman for Southside High School.

Pressley was voted Arkansas' defensive player of the year this season and is considered the top line prospect in the state.

Butler County

Arkansas was interested, but Murph ultimately chose Butler County Community College in Kansas to help prepare him both athletically and academically for Division-I football.

"I'm very pleased to get this opportunity," said Murph.

(Butler County) has given me a chance to do something I've always wanted to do. I wanted to go to school in the SEC, but first I've got to go to Butler. Then if I do well down there, I'll get there."

Butler County is the creme de la creme of junior college football, winning NJCAA national football championships three of the last four seasons.

The school produces Division-I talent every year.

"I come from a winning program and I'm going to a winning program," said Murph. "I want to get one of those national championship rings next year. I would love to have an immediate impact and make my mark. I definitely need to get bigger and a little faster."

Murph was a multiple-threat as NMCC's quarterback this season, throwing for 1,238 yards and 17 touchdowns. On the ground, he rushed for 714 yards with 10 TDs.

Butler County recruited him as a safety and receiver.

"I have to thank God and my mother for being in this position," said Murph. "Without them, none of this would be possible. I was always the smallest kid, but my mother kept telling me that if I worked hard enough it would eventually come to me. I always believed in that and now it has."