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For five locals, it’s on to college athletics

For five talented and dedicated athletes from La Jolla high schools, Feb. 6 represented a day they had been waiting for most of their athletic careers. The five athletes - two from The Bishop’s School, two from La Jolla Country Day and one from La Jolla High School - signed national letters of intent to continue their athletic careers in college.

From Bishop’s, quarterback Tommy Wornham committed to play football at Princeton and Lindsey Holman-Kelly signed to play soccer at Wake Forest. Country Day had football player Andy Altman sign with Dartmouth and gridiron teammate Brandon Belew commit to Defiance. La Jolla High School defensive tackle Ja’Rodd Watson signed to continue his football career at Colorado State.

Watson was without a doubt the most high-profile signing. He follows his older brother, E.J. Watson, to Colorado State. E.J. Watson was a standout back for La Jolla High School in the 1990s and went on to help the Rams to back-to-back conference titles and Holiday Bowl appearances in 1994 and ’95.

Ja’Rodd Watson will have another La Jolla connection in Fort Collins, as former Vikings assistant coach Anthoney Hill recently signed on as Colorado State’s running backs’ coach. Hill played at Colorado State with E.J. Watson.

Ja’Rodd Watson played mostly fullback at La Jolla, but was recruited by Colorado State as a defensive tackle. At 6-feet, 2-inches, he could become a force on the Rams’ defensive line. He was part of a recruiting class that included 25 signees for first-year Colorado State coach Steve Fairchild.

Wornham was a three-year starter at quarterback for Bishop’s and will continue his career in the Ivy League despite the fact that the league’s schools do not offer athletic scholarships. The academic-minded schools also do not participate in postseason play in most sports.

Wornham put up astounding numbers for the Knights last season as he led them to a CIF-San Diego Section division championship. He completed 73 of his 97 passes for 1,283 yards and 17 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

In 2006, he went 87-for-179 passing for 1,843 yards and 20 touchdowns with nine interceptions as Bishop’s went 7-5.

During his sophomore season, Wornham passed for 1,563 yards while completing 97 of his 195 passes, with 16 scoring passes and 15 interceptions.

Altman also went the Ivy League route with Dartmouth. A 6-foot-2, 275-pound offensive and defensive lineman and long snapper, he was a first-team all-league selection as a senior and was named to the second team during his junior season.

Belew signed with Defiance College, a liberal arts college with ties to the United Church of Christ that is located in Terre Haute, Ind. Competing at the Division III level, the Yellow Jackets went 5-5 last year and were 4-3 in the HCAC.

Belew is a 5-foot-9, 160-pound wide receiver and defensive back who could see time on both offense and defense for the Yellow Jackets.

Feb. 6 was the first day high school athletes in football, boys’ and girls’ soccer, boys’ water polo and field hockey could sign letters of intent with colleges. Once the period begins, high school athletes can make their verbal commitments official by signing letters, which essentially commit them to the athletic program with which they sign.

Signing the letter allows the student-athletes to commit to one college athletic program with the guarantee that a position will be open, and it lets coaches fill spots knowing that athletes won’t switch to another school at the last minute. Verbal commitments, which athletes often make during the early part of their junior years, are non-binding and thus allow athletes flexibility and time to make their final decisions.