By Debbie Adams
Thirteen seniors in six sports at William Byrd High School signed letters of intent on May 5, committing them to further their educations and their athletic careers at the college level.
The signing ceremony was held in the school gymnasium. Principal Tammy Newcomb congratulated the students on furthering their athletic and academic careers. “You are being recognized for your effort and hard work in becoming student athletes at William Byrd,” she said.
“I have watched you all play,” said Newcomb. “You deserve this; you worked hard for this.”
Newcomb also thanked the coaches for their dedication to the athletes and the parents who supported their children.
She praised Athletic Director Jason Taylor for the hundreds of hours of time and effort he dedicated to the athletes and the athletic program at William Byrd, “even more this past year, going above and beyond, more than any athletic director I know.”
The seniors were introduced by their individual coaches and accompanied by their families to the table for the signing ceremony.
Signees are baseball players Tyler Dean, Isaac Fix, Dylan Hatfield, Hayden Lyle, and Luke Taylor, introduced by Coach Neil Zimmerman; softball player Hallie Cox, introduced by Coach Greg Barton; soccer player Hanna Chappell, introduced by Coach Molly Cox; girls basketball player Cabria Mutz, introduced by Coach Brad Greenway; and football players Bryson Lutz, Blake Sankbeil, El’amin Shareef, and Ethan Tinsley, introduced by Coach Brad Lutz; and soccer player Nic Clements, introduced by Coach Russell Dishman.
Tyler Dean will be playing baseball at Virginia Tech. He was described by Coach Zimmerman as “wired; always ready to go all the time.” He has been a four-year varsity starter in baseball and a multi-sport athlete. “He has tons of natural talent, a fire in his belly, and is such a competitor,” the coach said. Dean also made First Team All District in football this year. His parents are Steve and Michelle Dean.
Isaac Fix will be playing baseball at Davidson College. Zimmerman described him as one of the “smartest kids I have ever been around.” In fact, Zimmerman taught Fix in fifth grade at Herman L. Horn Elementary. “He is competitive, and his family has worked tirelessly in the program.” His parents are Mark and Liz Fix.
Dylan Hatfield will be playing baseball at Virginia Tech. Zimmerman also taught Hatfield in fifth grade at HLH. He described Hatfield as a four-year starter and multi-sport athlete—“smart, a good student, so competitive, and a high-level catcher.” He also commended Hatfield for being chosen as this year’s Top Terrier and quarterback of the football team. His parents are Fred and Carla Hatfield.
Hayden Lyle will be playing baseball at Bluefield College. Zimmerman described Lyle as a multi-sport athlete, “a tough kid,” always working hard and at top speed. “He will try anything I ask him to do.” His parents are Jamie and Krista Lyle.
Luke Taylor will be playing baseball at Bluefield College. Zimmerman said Taylor “grabbed my attention in middle school” and is an “awesome player. He has been committed to making himself a better baseball player since the day he entered the program. He has worked hard in the weight room and in off-season conditioning and workouts to improve his game. He is an outstanding member of the Terrier community and respected by his peers and teammates,” said Zimmerman. His parents are Jason and Margo Taylor.
Hallie Cox will play softball at Bluefield College. Coach Barton said Cox was a “big part of the state championship team in 2019. Last year should have been her big year, but COVID hit. Pitchers have to work daily to be competitive. She is a hard worker.” She transferred to Byrd in her sophomore year, starting her pitching career at Patrick Henry. Her parents are Jan-Michael and Tracie Cox.
Hanna Chappell will play soccer at Converse College. Coach Cox explained that Chappell moved here this year from Florida and has had “a huge impact on the team—our leading scorer. I wish she could have been here all four years. She is a passionate player with extraordinary abilities. She has been playing soccer since she was 7 years old. Hanna is a vocal leader on the field and has a high soccer IQ.” Her parents are John and Suzanne Chappell.
Cabria Mutz will continue her basketball career at Hollins University. Coach Greenway described her as a “fierce competitor” with 150 steals, 156 blocks, 456 rebounds and 359 points in her four-year career. She is “an incredible athlete” he said, “growing each year and becoming a leader on the floor by example.” Her parents are Tyson and Sarah Scott.
Before introducing his players, Coach Lutz reminded those attending the signing ceremony of the huge part academics plays in athletics. “Only 6 percent of high school students go on to play collegiately,” he said. He urged the athletes signing that day to “go to the next level and represent all of us.”
Bryson Lutz will play football at Emory and Henry College. Coach Lutz noted that his son—a four-year starter—had been his “sidekick” on every field where he had coached. He’s a versatile “Swiss Army Knife” type of kid who never missed a day of weightlifting in the gym in his high school years. He made First Team All District this year in Defense and Second Team All District in offense. His parents are Brad and Christy Lutz.
Blake Sankbeil will play football at Emory and Henry College. Lutz praised Sankbeil as a “program kid” who buys into the vision of the program and what the coach wants him to do. “His dream started long ago. I coached him hard; football is a tough game for tough people.” His parents are Bill and Karen Sankbeil.
El’amin Shareef will be playing football at Randolph Macon College. Lutz praised his “high character, unmatched work ethic, and his humility” and described him as a powerful player, an “unforgettable kid,” and “total package kid.” Shareef made First Team All District on offense and defense and was named a WDBJ Player of the Week. Lutz commented on the game against Patrick County this year in which Shareef had 250 yards rushing and six touchdowns, while wearing No. 33, the number of Coach Lutz’ high school friend Army Specialist Clarence Adams, who was killed in Iraq in 2004. El’amin’s mother is Talethia Shareef.
Ethan Tinsley will be playing football at Randolph Macon College. Lutz said that Tinsley “defines a multi-sports kid; he’s a three-sport athlete; I found him on a baseball field.” His numbers speak for themselves with 58 catches and 787 yards receiving. Tinsley made Second Team All District on both offense and defense. The coach also said Tinsley is a great role model while being “explosive and super competitive.” His parents are Mitzi and Tony Thornton and Eric and Candice Tinsley.
Nic Clements will be playing soccer at Seton Hill University. Coach Dishman said that Clements “puts it all on the line and works hard when no one is watching. He has a passion and love for the game,” and “will play anywhere he is needed. We have been fortunate to have him.” His parents are Chris Clements and Stephanie Darienzo.
Athletic Director Jason Taylor commended the 13 Byrd athletes for their character and resilience in accomplishing so much and keeping their dreams alive against all odds in this challenging year.