MATTOON — Two brothers will continue to be teammates at the next level and a runner will continue his career in college, something he didn't think was a possibility a couple of years ago.
That was the reality for three Mattoon athletes, who made their college choices official on Wednesday. Michael Brown and Logan Retzer, who are step-brothers, will continue their football careers at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois. Mattoon cross country and track and field runner Garrett Jones will continue to run competitively as he plans to join Millikin University's programs.
At one point, Jones wasn't planning on running in college, but Millikin came along and he liked the coach and the program, so he decided to continue his competitive running career.
"It's honestly the best opportunity I've ever had in my life. I am very excited and I can't wait to see where it takes me for the next four years," Jones said. "Coach (Andrew) Craycraft was very open and very honest with me and made me feel like I was at home. He wanted to bring what I had here, the family aspect of the program, and that's what really brought me in the most."
Jones' other collegiate choice had nothing to do with running. He was planning to attend Appalachian State because the university had a major he was interested in – fermentation sciences. He still plans to go to Appalachian State for graduate school.
The opportunity to keep running was too good for Jones to pass up.
"I decided I wanted to keep running and keep doing this sport," Jones said. "I wasn't really interested (in running in college) until my junior year when I realized this may be something I want to do at the next level. I was getting faster, so that's always fun to be better. I didn't want to let it go quite yet. It all came into place with Millikin."
Jones has made big strides for the Mattoon cross country team the past couple of seasons and thinks he can continue to improve at Millikin.
"I hope to make the varsity team and to make a big impact and hope to help them try and dethrone North Central College in their conference," Jones said. "I think I have plenty of room to grow and I am planning on having a big drop in time once I start training in college."
Brown narrowed down his choices to MacMurray, Millikin and McKendree. In the end, he went with the school that he not only thought he clicked with the best, but also a school that he felt wanted him the most.
"That was my number one school," Brown said. "I went to a couple of visits there and I just liked the environment and coaches a lot. Hopefully I will put some points on the board for them."
Retzer was excited to continue to play football in college and he chose MacMurray over Millikin.
"It's a new chapter in my life. I am just really happy about it," Retzer said. "The coaching and the team sold me on MacMurray. There was just good comradery with the guys. The coaches were really persistent on having me on the team."
Both Brown and Retzer said it will be nice having each other there to lean on, but both also said it will be nice to spread their wings separately in college.
"It just happened like that. Both coaches really wanted us," Retzer said. "It's nice to know someone there."
Mattoon coach Troy Johnson said it was nice to see both players move on to the next level.
"They are good kids, good hard-working kids," Johnson said. "They are good academic kids, good community kids. They will do positive things in the future."
Brown was a running back and linebacker in high school, and he will stay on the offensive end in college. He will be learning a new position because the coaches plan to use him as wide receiver and will keep him as a back.
"I will do it. I can catch," Brown said. "I am excited to learn the routes."
Retzer played linebacker and defensive back at Mattoon and will play about the same position in college. He will play a hybrid safety/linebacker position at MacMurry.
"They have a position that is both," Retzer said. "I've always liked playing run defense, and I knew I wasn't going to be big enough to play college linebacker, so that would be the best place to go."
Johnson feels both Brown's and Retzer's work ethic will help them succeed at MacMurray.
"I think they are both good players," Johnson said. "It's a different level and I know they will work hard. That's all I ever asked for them here. If you hang in there long enough, good things will happen and I think it will for them."