Snow was the backdrop as most of the Alpine High School students and staff gathered for a ceremony in the cafeteria on National Signing Day. Many were complaining about the decision to remain open despite inclement weather, but those that showed up on Feb. 5 saw a celebration of time well spent as a student-athlete by Osiris Alferez, Aaron Fellows, and Travis Ruckman.
Signing day events are regular occurrences in Alpine, but this one was special to a lot of people gathered in the warmth. Three seniors strode into the future together, two of them going to the same school, and one proud master of ceremonies couldn’t help but cry during his speech.
“They’re tears of joy,” Buck Athletic Director, head football coach, and Fellows’ dad told the audience before him. “I do this every year. I’m the one who has to speak, but this year it’s a little different. For those that aspire to this, it takes a lot of hard work, lots of lonely days, and that’s kind of why I get choked up.”
Fellows is heading to Southern Nazarene University in suburban Oklahoma City. He will play slot receiver for the Division II school, and is bringing an outside linebacker with him. Travis Ruckman also received a combination of academic and athletic money from SNU, and decided it was the right fit for him, too.
“They showed us the most interest and have a good coaching staff,” said Ruckman. “I feel we're going to have a home away from home over there.”
Fellows screamed, “Travis, we did it!” on the Crane football field after the two captains led Alpine to a 22-16 overtime win and a District title last November. Fellows was the quarterback last year, but is looking forward to returning to his favorite position on the field in college. Ruckman had 94 tackles including eight for lost yardage in 2019. Now he moves from an interior signal caller to an outside rusher hunting for quarterbacks.
“I feel like they did the recruiting process the right way,” Fellows said. “Coach Dustin Hada and I have been talking for a while. On December 16 he got promoted to head coach, and it sparked from there. I’m going to try and make the biggest impact I can from day one. ”
Alferez will spend the next two years at Clarendon Community College outside of Amarillo thanks to a presidential scholarship offer from the school. She'll continue to hone her skills on the back line of the volleyball court and in the classroom.
“I love the vibe, and I think it’s a perfect fit for me,” Alferez said. “I plan on transferring in two years. Usually JUCO players end up going to District I or District II schools.”
In the sports pages of the Alpine Avalanche, the name Fellows appears more than any other. The family with a hand in every scholastic sport in this valley since 2015 draws adulation, respect, and the inevitable criticism that comes with the jobs they take on. Last Wednesday was a culmination of the work and the love that is the Fellows era at Alpine ISD, but it certainly wasn’t the end.
When Andrew escaped from Texas right after high school, he eventually returned with his wife, Megan. They now teach and coach all day at multiple campuses before sometimes catching Fellow’s final basketball games at night. Their little son gets passed around the bleachers to be held by any number of the extended athletic family members.
John's wife, Sandra, is often unavailable for grandma time in the evening. Depending on the calendar, she can be found scorekeeping, overseeing cheerleading practice, or even introducing batters that come up to the plate.
She once confessed that she doesn’t mind working at the scorer’s table during Fellows games. Otherwise, she would spend more time noticing things he was doing wrong, and want to coach him, too.
“When kids reach this pinnacle here, a lot of it is done through the help of others,” John Fellows said last week. “Family, friends, teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers - you all play a part. Like I tell the kids every day in athletics, every job is important.”