By Chesley Oxendine
Three Fort Gibson Tigers prepared to take the next step in their football careers last week as they signed to play at the college level.
Running back Jake Gandara signed with University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, while colleague and tight end Ned Adair plans to play for East Central University in Ada. Defensive lineman Andrew Brestel will play out of state at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kan.
For Fort Gibson High School’s head football coach James Singleton, it’s a little like seeing his own kids off to college.
“I’ve coached these guys for the last two years. I’m excited for them to excel academically and athletically and play ball at a university,” Singleton said. “I kind of think of them as my own a little bit, so I’m just extremely proud of them.”
He said each athlete had the kind of talents that attracted college recruiters, such as Brestel’s speed as a defensive lineman.
“Andrew’s a very athletic big guy, very strong. There’s not a lot of guys that are 6’3”, 280 pounds that move like he does,” Singleton said. “That’s always something coaches are looking for.”
Brestel said he was “surprised” by Pittsburg State’s interest in him.
“Coach Singleton sent out films to a bunch of the colleges. I just caught their eye. One of their coaches came up to talk to us and they picked me up,” he said. “I was expecting like Bacone College. I didn’t think anybody in Kansas would know who I was.”
The lineman said it wasn’t just Pittsburg State’s football, but also their biology program that attracted him to the school.
“They’re a prestigious program, they won a national championship,” he said. “They also have a great biology program so I can study that and do something in the medical field.”
Gandara, attending UCO, said his former residence in Edmond made the school an easy choice.
“I used to live there, so I’m familiar with the area and have some family up there, so it was just really comfortable up there and fit well,” he said.
It doesn’t hurt that UCO’s coaching staff reminds him of his current coaches at Fort Gibson, Gandara said.
“They were an all new coaching staff this year. This is their first year recruiting,” he said. “I saw how passionate they were about everything. I really connected with them.”
Adair, once he arrives at East Central University, plans on playing both football and baseball — after he gets used to everything.
“I’m definitely nervous, leaving family and Fort Gibson to be going to college,” he said. “Yeah, at first it’ll be kind of scary, once it gets going I’ll be able to adjust and everything will be fine.”
As excited as the seniors are to play at a new level, they still have the things they accomplished for Fort Gibson’s program behind them, Singleton said.
“They were leaders in the locker room, in our community,” the coach said. “They will be hard to replace on Friday nights.”
Those Friday nights with the Tigers are something Gandara’s going to miss, he said.
“I definitely am. Ever my since my junior year with Coach Singleton, and the staff we have now, I really realized how much I loved football,” the runningback said. “The great fanbase and the love of our teammates. I almost feel spoiled and don’t want to leave it, but life has to go on.”