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Four McClymonds High School student athletes prepare to sign their letters of intent to play college football, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008 in Oakland, Calif. The students are, from left, Ashtyn Lowe, Michael Peters, Allen Carroll and Brent Turner. (D. Ross Cameron/The Oakland Tribune)
OAKLAND — There were a lot of smiles and a few tears Wednesday as four McClymonds High football-playing seniors signed their national letters of intent to continue their athletic and academic careers.

Allen Carroll, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound offensive lineman, provided the most emotional moments of the ceremony when the soft-spoken athlete thanked his friends and family for their support. From growing up through the tough neighborhoods of West Oakland to earning a scholarship to the University of Washington, Carroll battled long and hard to reach this day.

"I remember my friends back in eighth, ninth grade. I wouldn't have what I have now, if not for them," a teary-eyed Carroll said. "I probably wouldn't have even played football, if it wasn't for my friends because at first I didn't like it that much. I want to thank my dad and my mom for never giving up on me. I know I could easily be dead right now. I take nothing for granted."

Joining Carroll on signing day was Ashtyn Lowe, who committed only a day earlier to the University of San Diego — a non-scholarship school that will provide a financial-aid package that will cover more than 80 percent of the costs.

"It's a nice school with small classes," said Lowe, who chose San Diego over Southern Utah and plans to major in graphic design. "It's close to home, and I have a few friends that go there.


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Offensive lineman Brent Turner and defensive back Michael Peters also signed their letters of intent to attend Sacramento State.

"My family has played a big part of my life, and that's one of the reason I chose Sacramento," Peters said, citing the close proximity to home.

Turner, who spent two years at Mack after spending the first two years of high school in Texas with his mother (who traveled from Texas for the ceremony), gave credit to his teammates, in particular linemate Carroll.

"Allen helped me a lot going up against him every day in practice," Turner said.

The ceremony signified the end of a great first year for coach Eric Culberson Jr., who helped his team bounce back from an 0-5 start to win its third straight Silver Bowl.

"It's been a year of a lot of changes," McClymonds athletic director Anthony McNeil said, referring to the coaching change after Alonzo Carter left for Berkeley. "We're trying to plant our own footstep, start a new beginning. We have a lot more of these (ceremonies) to come."

Culberson, a McClymonds graduate, recalled the day his senior class had its signing ceremony and he was there, but not as a participant.

"I didn't have a scholarship," he said. "I used that as motivation to get there."

Culberson redshirted a season at Boise State before returning home to play two years at Laney. He then signed with the University of Akron and was a two-year starter for the Zips and earned his degree, something he's stressed to his players as being the key.

"It's one thing to get a scholarship," Culberson said. "But the question is: What are you going to do with the opportunity you've been given? You've been given a great opportunity. Not everybody gets this opportunity. What are you going to do with it?"