MELISSA — Wednesday, Feb. 1, was a day of celebration at Melissa High School as three of its student-athletes signed letters of intent to play collegiate sports. The National Signing Day event was held in MHS’s main gymnasium as coaches, fellow students, teammates and proud family members looked on.

“It takes the entire community of Melissa to make something like this happen and that’s why we celebrate it together,” Melissa Girls Athletic Director Claude Webb said of the large gathering. “We want it so all kids can succeed, but when we see kids go beyond and do this, we’re certainly very, very proud.”

Amanda Kocsis, star forward for Melissa’s Lady Cardinals, will play soccer for Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Kocsis was 2016’s Offensive Player of the Year from District 5-4A and a Second-Team All-State pick as well. She has been Melissa’s Offensive Player of the Year for the last two seasons and her 89 career goals are a school record.

Alfonso Viramontes, a standout offensive lineman for the Cardinals, signed to play football for Texas A&M-Commerce. The big offensive tackle was a two-year starter for Melissa and an All-District pick from District 5-4A (II). One of the top o-linemen in the area, Viramontes was also tabbed for the All-Texoma team.

Gunnar Murphy chose Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri, for the furtherance of his football career. A four-year varsity player — three at Melissa — Murphy was a premier tight end and linebacker for the Cards last fall and was named one of two Utility Players of the Year in District 5-4A (II). He was also an All-Texoma pick and started at linebacker in December’s Blue-Grey All-American Bowl game at AT&T Stadium.

Kocsis kicks it

“It was just a huge honor,” Kocsis said of reaching this milestone. “Just having all these people with me, supporting me this whole journey was incredible. … Since middle school, that’s been my number one goal, to get to the D-I (college) level. Having done that, it’s been great. It’s the best feeling ever.”

Loyola Marymount’s women’s soccer program, well-respected for years, advanced to the sport’s “Sweet 16” in 2015. Kocsis plans to study kinesiology at LMU and has been accepted into the school’s Sever College of Science and Engineering.

Girls AD Claude Webb said he’s known Kocsis for years.

“She’s always been awesome,” Webb said. “… You can’t talk about Amanda without talking about her whole family. The brothers, the sisters, they’ve all gone to school here. They’re a great family.”

Kocsis’ coach Manuel Avila noted that this marks the third straight year Melissa has produced a Division I soccer player — each year of the program’s existence.

“Amanda is the consummate team player,” he said, “who leads by example, is always working hard, always encouraging her teammates.”

With Kocsis, Melissa has made fine playoff runs each of the past two seasons: the regional finals in 2015 and the regional semifinals last year. “Once she finishes her playoff run this year,” Avila said, “she can look to the future where we know she will be amazing.”

Kocsis led the Lady Cards last year with 40 goals and 26 assists on her way to that All-State team slot. This year she set a new school record for career goals, with 89, and may yet reach the 100 mark once she’s back from a broken foot in perhaps a week. Kocsis, who chose Loyola Marymount over Florida Atlantic, UT-Dallas and Oklahoma State, was asked about her time as a Lady Cardinal. “Definitely,” she said, “all the friends that I’ve made has been the best experience. Having played at Melissa, compared to all the other schools in the area, it has been the best fit for me.”

Kocsis’ parents, Tim and Lisa Kocsis, joined her at the signing table for Wednesday’s big moment.

Viramontes should roar

Boys Athletic Director and head football coach Seth Stinton said Murphy and Viramontes will be hard to replace. Both were team captains last fall as the Cardinals rebounded from a 1-9 season to 8-4 and two rounds into the playoffs.

“You can’t say enough about their leadership,” he said, “and what they’ve done outside of football that created just a totally different atmosphere this season and this year. … They’ve done things outside of the school that have helped build our program and make the bond between our team stronger. We’ll for sure miss them.”

Stinton puts both Viramontes’ and Murphy’s chances of advancing to a Division I program at “100 percent.”

“Nervous and excited” is how Viramontes described his feelings this day.

“It was a big rush,” he said of finally sitting down to confirm his plans. “Definitely another step into my life, a pretty exciting one. I’m ready for a new journey.”

Viramontes said playing college football wasn’t something he thought much about as a sophomore, but that he “loved the game and always wanted to get better at it.”

Viramontes’ mother, Sylvia Hernandez, was at his side at the signing as was sister and fellow Melissa High student Sylvia Viramontes. Viramontes plans to study electrical engineering at A&M-Commerce. He also had offers from Midwestern State, Southeastern Oklahoma and Cisco College. His choice, the Division II A&M-Commerce Lions, just wrapped up their third straight Lone Star Conference championship, posting an 11-2 record along the way.

Stinton recalled Viramontes being a “skinny young guy” as a freshman.

“He has transformed his body,” Stinton said, “and worked extremely hard to get to go play football at A&M-Commerce. … I think Alfonso will have a chance to get to A&M-Commerce and do extraordinary things there. He’s that kind of player. He’s a big kid and I think he’s only going to get bigger.”

What will Viramontes remember about his time as a Cardinal?

“Probably the summer workouts,” he said. “Me and my brothers, we all sweated. It was hard working out. I’m probably going to remember that for the rest of my life.”

Murphy heard heart

Murphy didn’t make his choice for Division II Southwest Baptist until very late in the process.

“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I weighed all my options and I really felt like my heart led me to Southwest Baptist. … A lot of prayer went into this, I’ll tell you that. I didn’t sleep very well last night, knowing I had a couple of schools that really were interested. … It’s always been a dream,” he said of playing eventually playing Division I ball. Murphy is the son of Keith and Tammy Murphy, both of whom accompanied him at the signing, along with his sister Reese, an MHS student as well. Keith Murphy is superintendent of the Melissa Independent School District.

Murphy, who plans to become a game warden, had other offers including Cisco College, Tyler Junior College and Trinity Valley Community College. His ultimate pick, SBU’s Bearcats, were co-champions of the Great Lakes Valley Conference last year, finishing with 10-2 mark — their best finish in program history.

“He’s a very good defensive player and a very good offensive player,” Stinton said of Murphy. “In college, I see him doing either one of those. … He’s done everything we’ve ever asked him to. He’s switched positions and played different positions. It’s amazing how far he’s come.” Murphy was sidelined in 2015 with a broken foot and returned for a banner senior year.

As for what he’ll miss most from his Melissa days, Murphy said, “My ‘bros’, my buddies. The experience I had here. The broken foot. Coming back from that. It just made me stronger.”