National signing day is like Christmas for high school athletes.
Photos are taken, hugs and kisses are doled out, and smiles can be found on the faces of every kid in sight, knowing they get to continue to play the sport they love at the college level.
The annual event was particularly impressive at Countryside High School on Tuesday, as a huge crowd packed the media center to witness six football players and a number of other athletes sign letters of intent with their new schools.
For Safety Harbor’s A.J. Sattinger, the day marked the end of a tumultuous period that saw him withdraw his commitment to Temple University and sign with the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers.
“I feel great about my decision. Going up for the visit I felt it was home for me,” said Sattinger, a tight end. “I was being truthful to Temple the whole time, but they got new coaches … I feel God had a plan for me.
"This is the happiest day of my life."
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Sattinger’s father, Tim, an employee with the City of Safety Harbor, said he was happy his son made the switch rather than be unhappy somewhere else.
“They told him they wanted him to sit out half a year and move him to guard,” the elder Sattinger said of the new coaching staff at Temple. “That was the final decision that made him de-commit. He’s not a guard.
“We’re extremely proud of our son, and proud he’s going to be representing Safety Harbor.”
Mike Love, a highly recruited defensive lineman who chose to stay close to home to play at the University of South Florida, was trying to soak it all in as cameras flashed all around him.
“I saw this day coming, but it’s a lot more than I expected,” he said. “I’ve probably taken 100 pictures already.”
Love, the 2011 defensive player of the year for Pinellas County, said he was happy to be joining the rebuilding Bulls.
“It’s a true blessing to be part of something special with the Bulls,” he said. “We’re going to have a good program.”
For Cougars head coach Jared Davis, the day was a mixed blessing.
While he was happy to have so many members of his team move on to play college ball, he is now tasked with replacing the nucleus of a team that won 29 games over the last three years.
“You can never replace the caliber of players, the personalities and all that,” he said.
"But we hope to have this problem every year. It's the sign of a great program to produce players that these colleges want.”
Other Countryside football players who signed letters of intent on Tuesday included Safety Harbor's Brandon Pertile (Georgia State); Ryan Pandy (Lehigh); Joe Ganci (Georgetown) and Jake Smith (Minot State).