TRAVERSE CITY — Byron Bullough waited a long time for Wednesday to arrive.
Bullough finally was able to put ink to paper when he signed his letter-of-intent with the Michigan State football team. The signing came 18 months after he committed to play for the Spartans and after a lifetime of rooting for the school where his grandfather, Hank, father, Shane, and brothers, Max and Riley have played. He was the first Michigan State recruit to fax in his letter-of-intent, doing so at 7:04 a.m.
“I’ve been waiting for it, it’s finally come and I’m ready to take on the challenges that Michigan State has for me,” said Bullough, during a Signing Day event at the St. Francis High School library. “It’s been taking a while. I’ve been just trying to get players to come to Michigan State with me — recruiting players. I’m ready to get to MSU.”
Bullough estimates he’s been to East Lansing around 40 times over the years, especially in recent years going to watch his two brothers on the field. It figures to be a smooth transition for one of the top-rated players in the state.
“Going to home games, going to away games even,” he said. “Always being down there. It’s awesome and I can’t wait to live there.”
Bullough was a running back and a safety for St. Francis, but is expected to switch to linebacker when he gets on campus, a position his brother Max held down for the past four years as an all-Big Ten player. Riley, who will be a redshirt sophomore, has bounced between linebacker and running back in his short career. Byron said he was in contact with both of his older siblings early in the day.
“Max just texted me a little bit ago, telling me this is a new obstacle in your life. You need to face it. You’re going to get adversity and when you do you’ve got to have the right attitude,” said Byron. “Riley, we always talk. We’re great friends. I can’t wait to be with him, too.”
Bullough wasn’t the only player from Traverse City to sign with a Division 1 program — and he’s not even the only one from his school. Defensive lineman Jake Khoury also was part of the Signing Day event at St. Francis, signing with Buffalo while West’s Connor Hayes signed with Pittsburgh.
“I’m just really excited, really happy,” said Khoury. “It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders. I know I have a lot of work to put in, but I’m glad.”
Khoury committed to the Bulls in the summer and was firm with that decision since that time.
“I kind of shut the door really early,” he said. “I had already decided I wanted to go to Buffalo. I didn’t really think about changing it.
“I’d always wanted to go to the East Coast and it’s New York. Even though it’s not necessarily on the East Coast it’s a great educational value.”
Bullough and Khoury were the latest in a pipeline of Division 1 talent that has come from St. Francis.
“It’s exciting to see kids every year out of St. Francis be able to continue to play football in college,” said the Gladiators’ head coach Greg Vaughan. “Getting to know the coaches, they know what kind of kid they’re getting (from St. Francis). We’ve been fortunate the last few years, putting quite a few kids out — Big Ten all the way down. They’re not just going to local schools. They’re getting schools far away. What I’m most excited about is they’re finding schools that fit them. Making sure they don’t just get wooed by the football, but making sure the college is a place that fits them.”
Like the two St. Francis players, Hayes made his commitment early, pledging to Pittsburgh back in April. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound offensive lineman was a four-year player and three-year starter for the Titans and also was ranked among the top players in the state of Michigan. According to Scout.com, Hayes had at least seven other offers from Division 1 schools.
“Connor will fit in perfectly with the smash-mouth style that coach (Paul) Chryst likes to play,” said West head coach Tim Wooer. “Pitt being in the (Atlantic Coast Conference) he’ll get to play on the big stage.”
A number of local athletes also secured their futures with colleges on Wednesday. Joining Bullough and Khoury at St. Francis were teammates Adam Armour, who will attend Siena Heights, and Eric Coggon, who is going to Hillsdale. Hayes has three teammates who are getting a shot at the next level. Geordon Carter and Grant Balino are going to Albion, while Alec Coolman is going to Siena Heights.
Siena Heights was active in getting northern Michigan players as Elk Rapids’ Ryan Bush also will be going to the Adrian school.
Harbor Springs’ David Walker was originally committed to Western Michigan last summer, but decommitted a short time later. He will be going to Harvard.
Kalkaska’s Eric Tracey is going to Northwood, Mancelona’s Tristan Fleet is headed to Concordia, Shea Whitmore of Petoskey will attend Hillsdale, Cadillac’s Jalen Brooks signed with Ferris State and Lake City’s Drew Marion signed with Michigan Tech.