Taj Brown was ready for the next challenge.
With his schooling done, the Merced College offensive lineman saw no point in waiting around for national signing day.
After having his career slowed by the recovery from a 2006 car accident and burning a redshirt season at Fresno City College before finding his home at MC, the former Merced High star wasn't delaying has advancement to a four-year school any longer.
Brown went on only one recruiting trip and instantly knew the University of Mary was the place for him. He signed up for the spring semester and got on campus as quickly as possible to start learning the offense.
"This opportunity was a long time coming, so I was pretty excited to take off," Brown said. "It all happened so fast. At times I felt like I rushed the decision, but now that I'm here I know I made the right decision and my instincts were correct.
"There was a time where I never thought playing college football was even possible. So to be able to continue my education and keep playing football at a four-year school is a special feeling."
Brown is one of 15 Blue Devils that will be moving on to four-year schools with three likely to compete at the FCS or FBS level.
"It's going to be 15 guys when it's all said and done," said MC head coach Bob Casey. "We've done a good job of moving a lot of guys on the last few years, but this is a really good class.
"What I find most exciting is that this group of sophomores has seven or eight local kids that are moving on.
"There's a lot of kids that shy away from Merced College because they're worried about getting trapped. This just goes to show that if you come in and work hard and take care of what you need to in the classroom, you're going to have the opportunity to continue your career and education."
Barnes enjoys signing
Offensive tackle Adolphus Barnes was the only Blue Devil to send off a letter of intent on Wednesday.
He'll attend Eastern Illinois in the fall with the hopes of making a run at the Football Championship Subdivision national title.
"It felt good to put my signature," Barnes said. "This day has been a long time coming. I knew right away Eastern Illinois was the right place for me. The coaches and team just made me feel really comfortable.
"I was pretty excited to send off my letter and get things going."
Five other Blue Devils are already on their new campuses, including Jarrell Davis (Missouri Valley College), Daniel Mouro (MVC), Trent Goiburn (MVC), Carlos Smith (Southwest Oklahoma State) and Chance Nevarez.
Lance and Nate Terry will attend Sterling College, while Wayne Carter, Adron Collins, Brad Avila and Darius Lamar are all trying to make their decision.
Linebackers Avila and Lamar both have FCS offers, but Lamar may try to walk on at South Carolina.
Star wide receiver Tyrell Vinson also has a number of Division 1 offers, but needs to finish up some classes over the summer before he can move on.
"You look at what the baseball team has done and the success they have of getting guys in and then moving them on, that's what we're aiming for," Casey said. "This was a step towards that."