It came in the form of a satellite truck parked on a hill behind the school’s gymnasium, in which two top college football prospects headlined a signing ceremony involving eight Yellow Jacket players.
The professional crew parked its camera in front of the corner of the table where Kwon Alexander and Trae Elston sat, and a gym full of students, teachers and a pep band waited.
It seemed only ESPNU could pierce the excitement it helped to create and did.
“OK, 30 seconds until we go live,” moderator Mickey Shadrix told the assembly, creating a hush.
Folks waited … and waited … and waited, much longer than 30 seconds, but then Alexander started to talk into a microphone. Only he could hear the ESPN yappers in his earpiece, but everyone heard him.
Alexander answered questions, then pulled off an Oxford pullover, revealing his LSU suspenders and bowtie. The gym erupted in cheers (well, except for the “Roll Tide!” guy).
Then came Elston’s moment, which he yielded to his 2-year-old cousin. What a nice touch, letting little Aidan Elston don the oversized Ole Miss cap.
And with that, Oxford took another step into the biggest of big-time high school football. The school became an epicenter on National Signing Day.
And don’t think Oxford coach John Grass won’t use it. He’ll do what he can to keep mental images of this momentous day fresh in the minds of current and future players.
“It does help with motivation when you get them in the weight room and tell them they need to pound the weights like these guys did,” he said.
Granted, it’s not every year that Oxford or any other school will have one of the nation’s top uncommitted prospects on signing day. The drama of Alexander’s announcement is what brought ESPN to town.
It’s not every year that any school will have two uncommitted major-college recruits, and Elston added the signing-day sweetener when he chose Ole Miss over national runner-up LSU and No. 3 Oklahoma State.
No, this doesn’t happen every year, but it happened this year and happened right here.
In the bigger picture, it added to Oxford’s gathering upward momentum.
The school that had never advanced past the state quarterfinals in Class 6A football made the semifinals this past fall, finishing off a 12-2 season. That playoff run was a major step for a program that previously had one playoff victory since 2004.
It’s no coincidence that Oxford became a recruiting hub, and the recruitment of the “Oxford Three” transcended local curiosity. From the first reports of major college offers two years ago, college football fans tuned into Alexander, Elston and Michael Flint.
From Flint’s Auburn commitment to his summer decommitment and RV tour to Notre Dame and Clemson, people tuned in.
Every new offer and every official and unofficial visit became news. Talk of high-profile college coaches coming to town hit social media.
It all culminated in Wednesday’s signing ceremony, where the Oxford Three became the Oxford Eight.
ESPN came for Alexander and Elston (Flint had already committed to Arkansas State), but Oxford’s most high-profile signees sat at a long table. Flint was there to sign his national letter of intent, as were Calvin Baker (Jacksonville State), Coty Spurling (North Alabama), Dominique Williams (Coffeyville Community College), Dez Swink and Monte Bass (both to Coahoma Community College).
It takes more than two or three talented athletes to break through in 6A, after all, but break through Oxford did this past fall.
Since the Yellow Jackets didn’t break all the way through for a state title, Wednesday’s signing ceremony served as their coronation. Even players that didn’t get to talk on ESPN’s air felt a part of it.
“It felt real good,” said Swink, who signed with the one college that offered him. “I knew everything was going to be about Kwon and Trae, but it still felt good to be here. I thank God for getting to be a part of this.”
For Baker --- who had offers from Brown, Air Force and North Alabama and academic offers from Alabama and Auburn --- the special feeling set in before ESPN went live.
“I’ll always remember coming out to the songs from the band,” he said. “I’ll always remember that. It was like a pep rally.”
Then again, “It’s big, but we’ve been in big times with this group and played in big games,” he said. “That’s sort of how it is now.”
And how it could be again, very soon.
Among younger players watching Wednesday’s ceremony was sophomore running back Racean Thomas, who has scholarship offers from Alabama and LSU, Grass said.
Two years from Wednesday, Thomas could very well sit at the same table in the same setting, soaking in the same hype.
He has watched older teammates to through the process of being major recruits. He witnessed their big moment Wednesday.
“I think it’s a good experience for me, seeing them make a commitment and learn from their experiences and playing with those guys,” he said. “…“From them I learn that you’ve got to have the right mindset. You’ve got handle things correctly.”
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.