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When One Door Closes, Another Opens--Eagle Athletes Commit to College Teams

Senior Preston Crowl announced his commitment to Virginia Tech in October of 2021. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Editor

For most seniors, finding the perfect college is a long and occasionally challenging process, with hours of research, tours, and writing in hopes of getting in. For seniors Preston Crowl, Nathan Atchue, and Sam Fansler, however, colleges across the country have reached out in hopes of signing these students to their athletic teams.

Crowl began playing baseball at age 3 and has played on the high school team since he was a freshman. Despite this experience, Crowl had doubts about extending his baseball career.

“I always wanted to play after high school, but honestly, I didn’t think I would, until COVID hit in my freshman year. I took advantage of the time off and I got a lot better,” Crowl said. “After that is when colleges started to notice me. At some point in time, I was in contact with UNC, Duke, South Carolina, ECU, [Virginia Tech], George Mason, JMU, Radford, VMI, and ETSU.”

Only a few months into his junior year, Crowl decided to commit to Virginia Tech. He explained that he wasn’t initially considering Tech, but the more he looked into the college, the more everything clicked.

“There wasn’t one particular thing that sold me on going to Virginia Tech; it was a combination of things,” Crowl described. “Just to name a few, I love the coaching staff, and it’s a program on the rise that’s continually getting better year after year. The town and campus the school has was also important to me because it’s where I would be living and spending most of my time for the next few years of my life, and I absolutely love Blacksburg and Tech’s campus.”

A year later, Crowl is unsure about his major but confident in his decision to attend Virginia Tech.

“I’m still happy with my decision. I love everything about Virginia Tech and can’t wait to go. I’m excited for the new experience it will be and the new people I will meet,” Crowl shared. “The only doubt I have is with it being a bigger school, it will be harder to get playing time. That’s something I knew when I committed but I’m just going to go in and work as hard as possible to earn a starting spot.”

While Crowl committed as a junior because he plays baseball, colleges weren’t allowed to contact Atchue until the summer before his senior year, as he runs cross country.

Senior Nathan Atchue had a chance to try on his future school colors while visiting the University of Tennessee. (Courtesy Photo)

Atchue has become an athlete to watch for both coaches and competitors, as Mile Split VA has named him one of the best high school runners in Virginia. Once Atchue became eligible, the University of Colorado, the University of Tennessee, and the University of North Carolina reached out in hopes of recruiting Atchue, which he explained made for some tough decisions.

“Honestly, I took my official to Colorado. I just didn’t click with the team,” Atchue revealed. “At Tennessee, I clicked with all the guys, all the freshmen, all the recruits, and now four out of the five recruits that were on the visit with me also committed to Tennessee.”

Like Crowl, Atchue committed to a school he wasn’t previously interested in.

“I wasn’t interested in the school until July because they got new coaches,” Atchue said. “They came from Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s been really good for years ever since that coach was there, and then he reached out to me when he got to Tennessee.”

Now Atchue is finding numerous benefits in attending Tennessee.

“I want to major in business and they have a good connection with Nike with their brand deal. Being on an athletic team there, I could possibly go into a career in Nike with a decent position,” Atchue continued. “Business is a pretty basic major so it won’t be hard to balance school and running. It’s a great team to be running for if I want to play professionally, which I do, and that all depends on how I perform in college.”

Atchue also emphasized the proximity of Tennessee’s campus to his family and friends, one being Fansler, who committed earlier this year to Emory and Henry to play golf.

Fansler played on the high school’s JV golf team in seventh grade and has been a member of the varsity team since he was an eighth grader. All of this experience brought Fansler several options when choosing what college to attend.

Senior Sam Fansler stands in front of Emory and Henry's campus, the place he's chosen to call home for the next four years of his athletic and academic career. (Courtesy Photo)

“[I got other offers from] VCU, App State, Virginia State University, Bridgewater, [and] Ferrum… I got a lot, but none of them were worth it until I got to Emory and Henry,” Fansler shared. “At my visit, I clicked with the team and as soon as I got there I knew it was where I wanted to play.”

Fansler’s story is similar to Atchue’s, as he also had prior knowledge of the head coach.

“Their new coach was the women’s coach at Penn State, then he went to Emory and Henry to rebuild the team and he’s been following me,” Fansler explained. “I wasn’t really paying [Emory and Henry] much attention until this summer.”

Fansler plans to major in business, which he said Emory and Henry is a great school for. He also enjoys the small school atmosphere while still being close to bigger colleges.

“Radford and Tech are right up the road from Emory and Henry so I can still go watch the football games but for education, Emory and Henry is a good fit,” he said. “[I’m looking forward to] definitely using all their resources to take it professionally.”

Atchue and Crowl agreed with Fansler that if it’s possible for them to play professionally, they’d love the opportunity, but for now, they seem to be looking forward to the next four years.

“Gonna try my best and take it as far as it’ll go - that’s for sure,” Fansler commented.

These three athletes aren’t the only seniors bound to commit and sign to play sports in college. They’re just the beginning of a school year full of continued Eagle athletic endeavors.

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