The ups and downs of the recruiting process can take its toll on even the most prepared athlete.
For Hernando defensive end Thomas Bronson, it almost left him without a scholarship.
Bronson signed a letter-of-intent on Wednesday with Appalachian State in front of family, friends and the Hernando football coaching staff. But for a while, Bronson wasn't even sure he'd have anywhere to sign.
Following a standout sophomore campaign as a linebacker at Hernando, Bronson was ready to burst onto the recruiting scene. Before he could catch the attention of scouts, though, Bronson developed mononucleosis and missed much of his junior season.
"That set me back," Bronson said. "A lot of the schools I was talking to stopped talking to me after my junior year because they saw that I wasn't playing. I didn't have the hype coming into my senior year."
Prior to the first game of his senior season, Bronson came down with tonsillitis and nearly missed more games.
"I couldn't give up any time my senior season," Bronson said. "The first three games are crucial for recruiting...I came off a great sophomore year, and then God humbled me big time. He showed me that I'm not all that. It was a very humbling experience, which humbled me in the weight room, on the field or with anything I do."
Finally healthy, Bronson flourished during his final season at Hernando. Playing defensive end for the first time, Bronson recorded 83 tackles, including an incredible 47 behind the line of scrimmage. He led the Leopards with 14 sacks and six forced fumbles. Behind Bronson's breakout season, Hernando's defense allowed only ten points a game and shutout three opponents.
"It's all been a dream to me," he said.
On Wednesday, Bronson completed the dream by signing a letter-of-intent with the Mountaineers. He also had invited walk-on offers from Florida and Florida State.
"Appalachian State was kind of later talking to me," Bronson said. "I wasn't talking to them right off the bat, but after visiting the school, I could tell they really wanted me up there."
Bronson said he plans to major in business.
"They have a great business school, which also helped with my decision," he said. "And they win a lot. That's something else I took into account. That's something you've got to want going into college, going to a championship caliber program."
Appalachian State recruited the 6-foot-3, 240 pound Bronson to play defensive end. He said the Mountaineers' coaching staff has asked him to add ten pounds before he arrives in Boone, N.C., and Bronson hopes that means he might see the field as a true freshman.
"I'll tell you this, I'll never forget where I came from," he said. "Whether I'm at Appalachian State or wherever, I'm always going to represent Hernando. I'll always be a Leopard. There's a lot of school pride here."