LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) – It's the third smallest high school in JCPS, but on Feb. 7 Waggener athletes are raking in big-time scholarships worth more than a million dollars.
However, the students signing on National Letter of Intent day they wouldn't have made it to this day if not for the family first atmosphere at Waggener that taught them it was more important to hit the books, than the weights.
"Waggener is smaller,” said Kentucky commit Larry Harper. “Small schools make more noise."
"Waggener is an equal opportunity school,” said Duke commit Tahj Rice. “No matter what you have going on if you're willing to set your heart in the right place and your mind in the direction it's supposed to be they will get behind you 100 percent no matter what it is."
"I've always said I wanted to create young men that are good fathers, good husbands, good brothers, and good sons,” said Waggener Head Coach Jordan Johnson. “Young men that will contribute in society."
Tajh Rice and Manny Harper took different routes to Waggener, but both made immediate impacts in the classroom once they became Wildcats.
"Really I just decided that I wanted to be more than a football player,” said Rice. “I knew I was smart enough to do it."
"You have to set yourself apart somehow,” said Harper. “It sounds cliché but it is easy to set yourself apart in the classroom because that's something you have control over."
Schools took notice of their work on and off the field leading to scholarship offers from Duke and Kentucky.
"A million dollars in scholarships just seems unreal because it's free money,” said Harper.
"Duke, Notre Dame, Stanford those are places I can go and have a nice alumni for when I graduate,” said Rice.
Opportunities that could be setting these student-athletes up for championships in life.
"It's just fun to watch kids that this is all they have, this is what they need,” said Johnson. “This is their way out."
Waggener athletes may not be done signing scholarships.
Coach Johnson says a number of athletes are still getting interest.