BY CHIP CIRILLO
Three Independence athletes are heading in opposite directions after signing letters of intent Wednesday.
Receiver T.J. Sheffield is going north to Purdue, quarterback Nathan Cisco is headed west to Idaho and setter Emma Osterbur is pointed east to Tennessee Tech.
Sheffield picked Purdue over schools like Ohio State and Penn State. He had 21 offers.
“They toss the ball around and I built a relationship with (the coaches) throughout the past couple of months that I’ve been recruited by them,” Sheffield said. “(Coach Jeff Brohm) loves to throw the ball and run the spread.”
Sheffield (5-foot-10, 171) will be in the stands watching his new team when Purdue (6-6) faces Auburn (7-5) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium on Dec. 28.
Purdue handed Ohio State (12-1) its only loss in a 49-20 shocker on Oct. 20. That knocked Ohio State out of playoff contention.
“I was jumping all over my couch when I was watching that game,” Sheffield said. “We’ve got some great guys coming in. Our class is one of the best that’s come through there.”
Davidson Academy running back Da’Joun Hewitt also signed with Purdue.
Sheffield recorded 4,870 total yards and 45 career touchdowns at Independence. He had 3,300 receiving yards, including 1,550 this year.
“He’s right up there with the best we’ve ever coached,” Eagles coach Scott Blade said. “His numbers are incredible throughout his career. His work ethic, his ability to get open, his hand-eye coordination, his spatial awareness, his ability to break tackles, his ability to finish make him special.”
Cisco (6-4, 185) will try to help Idaho improved its 4-7 record and ninth-place finish in the Big Sky Conference next season.
“I love it up there,” Cisco said. “It feels like home. It feels a lot like Tennessee. They run a spread, pro-style offense and they pass for the majority of their offense. I feel like it’s the perfect fit for me.”
Cisco passed for 1,167 yards and seven TDs, splitting time with Ethan Cash this season. Independence (6-6) made it to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs.
He finishes with 3,571 career passing yards and 22 TDs.
“His willingness to learn, willingness to work, great vision, enough arm strength,” Blade said of Cisco’s best traits.
Osterbur and Centennial libero Carly Skraback both signed with Tech in volleyball. Tech went 11-19 this season.
“(She’s) one of my good friends, so we get to go there and play together the next four years,” Osterbur said. “It’s a growing program and they’re looking to amp it up. I think we’ll be pretty successful.”