GOLDEN GATE — St. John Neumann paid tribute to six graduating seniors on Friday with a ceremony celebrating the signing of athletic scholarships.
Three tennis players headed to Division I schools highlighted the ceremony in the school's media center.
Bobby Deye (Florida State), Nick Maurillo (Auburn) and Tim Mahoney (Fairfield) each signed letters of intent. Joining the tennis standouts were football quarterback Jon Short (Wabash), volleyball player Brittany DeNomme (Judson) and cross country runner Ali Gardino (Florida Southern).
"This is a great day for the school," athletic director and football coach Steve Howey said. "That's basically 10 percent of our senior class moving on to play sports at the collegiate level. That's a great accomplishment for our athletic program. It shows you don't have to be a big school to produce quality athletes."
Celtics tennis coach Andy Cangelosi paid tribute to the three players who "put St. John Neumann tennis on the map."
Deye, Maurillo and Mahoney each won district titles as juniors, helping the team finish third in the state.
"Each one of these guys is successful in a different way," Cangelosi said. "Timmy is amazingly consistent, nothing rattles him. Bobby can beat guys who might be more skilled than he is because he's so mentally tough. He'll stay in the match until the end. Nick has a very fiery temperment, which keeps him competitive in every match."
Cangelosi said his seniors' success rubbed off on the younger players on the team.
"With what these guys were able to accomplish, the younger guys want to get to that level," Cangelosi said. "They see these guys moving on and playing college tennis and that makes them want to work that much harder."
Howey was proud of all the athletes signing scholarships but obviously had a soft spot for Short, his starting quarterback the last three seasons.
"The kid's just a natural leader, on the football field, on the basketball court, in the classroom," Howey said. "And that's something you can't teach. The coaching staff at Wabash saw that and really pursued Jon."
Wabash, a Division III school in Indiana, has a Naples connection which certainly helped Short's decision. Former Naples assistant coach Jamie Lemmond — who was on the staff during the Golden Eagles' state title season in 2001 — is the special teams coach at Wabash.
"Jon will have someone to help him make the transition to college football," Howey said. "That's always important."