Clear Creek Amana Football Program Puts a Different Twist on Signing Day

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Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

TIFFIN – Like many high schools around the country Clear Creek Amana hosted a signing day ceremony Wednesday afternoon.

In most ways the gathering in the lobby at Clear Creek Amana High School Wednesday was like any of the other around the country on national signing day.

The high school coach spoke, parents took pictures and kids laughed and joked with their classmates.

One major difference set this signing day ceremony apart from most other, these weren’t high school athletes with recruiting profiles inking with colleges.

Instead it was eighth-grade students from around the Clear Creek Amana district signing letters saying that they intended to play football for the Clippers next fall as high school freshman.

“I think to build a culture you have to build from the bottom up meaning the younger classes,” Clear Creek Amana coach Gabe Bakker said. “They have to buy in early and older kids will too but you really get it with the younger kids. These are the kids that are going to be my first freshman class from eighth grade to 12th grade and we want them to buy in right away.”

Bakker got the idea for the eighth-grade signing day when he saw Washington head coach Garrison Carter hold a similar event last spring.

The first-year Clear Creek Amana coach immediately liked the idea.

“As soon as I saw it I said ‘man I love that idea’,” Bakker said. “I got the idea and wanted to do it this year. Obviously with the change I think it’s the perfect fit for our kids here to build the excitement a little bit and get them excited to be a Clipper in high school.”

Bakker mailed out letters of intent to eighth graders last month.

On Wednesday more than 20 of those players gathered at the high school in Tiffin for an event that mirrored any other signing day.

The players took turns, sitting a table signing their letters of intent that said they planned to play for Bakker and the Clippers next season.

“I can’t tell you that I’ve heard of anything like it,” Clear Creek Amana athletic director Kurt Ronnfeldt said. “Gabe got the idea from a colleague of his and I think it’s awesome. I think it generates some excitement out of the kids.”

After signing the eighth-graders got a chance to put on uniforms and pose for pictures.

Amid the laughter and Heisman poses Bakker got exactly what he wanted, some kids excited about football in the dead of winter.

“We want to get them excited and have them thinking football a little bit in the winter time,” Bakker said. “We want them to play their spring sports but in the back of their mind know that football is coming up.”

Baker hopes the event that last all of 45 minutes builds excitement and is the foundation of a culture he is trying to create at CCA.

He also thinks it can serve as a unifying experience in a district that brings students from a number of different communities.

“It can be a big thing in unifying all our kids,” Bakker said. “When you are coming from Amana and North Liberty and Oxford and all those little towns we need to come together and unify as much as we can.”

Bakker said the initial response from the event has been overwhelmingly positive.

It may even serve as a sense of motivation for kids to sit at the same table again in four years.

“We are just trying to have a little fun with this thing,” Bakker said. “We are playing off the college deal but get them excited and maybe, maybe in four years they can do this with a college.