FREEPORT — With the July calendar only days away from turning over into August, Brandon Siples knew it was time to make a choice.
After graduating this past spring amid a global pandemic, Siples, Freeport’s former star running back, was still without a college to call home despite several suitors coveting his abilities.
Siples’ dream was to play college football, he said. Warner University in Lake Wales offered him the best chance to get on the field early, and Siples signed on the dotted line Monday surrounded by family in the Freeport gymnasium.
"It was a dream come true," said Siples, who was named to the Dandy Dozen this past year. "I’ve always wanted to play at the next level. I feel like my academics weren’t there, though; I feel like I could’ve went D1 or D2, but I’m still grateful to be given the chance. Warner gave me a chance and I’m grateful for that."
With family in the Lake Wales area, Siples said he has long had Warner in the back of his mind, though it wasn’t until this past year he started to seriously consider joining the Royals thanks in part to a Panhandle connection. Junior McLaughlin, a former Baker standout and Daily News Small Schools Offensive Player of the Year, also made Warner his home in 2019 and earned playing time as a freshman.
"I was like, ‘OK, they got a feel for the running backs here (in the Panhandle)," Siples said. "I feel like I can compete there.’ I hit up the coach; he was interested in me and we went from there."
Of making the final decision to join the Royals earlier this month, Siples said the fit simply felt right.
"It just makes sense for me to go to Lake Wales," he said. "I think it made sense. The relatives, the distance away I am from my family. I feel like Warner is the step I need to take this coming up season and this coming up year."
During an 18-game career with Freeport, Siples took more than a few good steps, racking up 2,846 rushing yards, averaging 201 all-purpose yards per game and scoring 44 total touchdowns. Nearly accounting for a first down on every play with his 8.1 yards-per-carry average, he also led Freeport to back-to-back playoff appearances.
Siples said the Warner coaching staff hopes to unleash those talents this fall, while he plans to study business management in the classroom. He said he would like to return to the area after graduating to start or invest in a business on 30A, though his current goals remain firmly rooted in the present.
"First of all, on the field, I’m trying to get in the rotation right off the bat," Siples said. "I’m trying to get touches. I’m trying to get involved quick on the field. And then in the classroom, I want to maintain and dominate in the classroom. I’m super excited for the obstacles I’m gonna have to go through with college because college is not high school."
However, more than school and more than football, Siples said he is most looking forward to striking out on his own.
"It’s a different atmosphere," he said. "I’ve been in the DeFuniak area for a long time. I’m so glad for a change. Usually people are, like, scared of change, but this transition I’m excited for.
"I’m super excited for this."