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Columbia football players Mitchell McGaughey, Cameron Ward and Richie Garza committed to play college football Wednesday morning.

WEST COLUMBIA — Roughneck quarterback Cameron Ward intends to reward Incarnate Word for taking a chance on him after signing a letter of intent Wednesday to play football for the San Antonio school.

Columbia teammates Richie Garza and Mitchell McGaughey are grateful for their opportunities as well, as they will suit up for Texas Lutheran University in Seguin.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Ward made what he saw as an easy decision on his collegiate future.

“For me it was a no-brainer. They were the only D-I school to take a chance on me,” Ward said. “So going there on May 31, I will work with the coaches and hopefully compete for the starting job.”

A Southland Conference member, the Cardinals were 4-5 in conference last season and 5-7 overall.

“I knew about Incarnate Word because I attended a football camp last summer,” Ward said. “It is a small campus and I liked the way the football team sticks together like a family. The coaches really liked my arm strength and they said there aren’t many quarterbacks who can throw it like I can. They liked how I move in the pocket and I can read defenses and know where to throw the ball.”

There was some interest from Texas Southern University, Ward said, but they did not commit to recruiting him.

“This is a blessing because my mom has always told me that God has a plan for me,” Ward said. “So I’ve stuck with that and just ran with it.”

Ward finished with more than 1,000 passing yards and double-digit touchdowns his senior year.

A visit last summer to a Texas Lutheran summer camp was all it took for Garza to know where he wants to be in his next football life.

“From that camp, one coach told me that he liked how I was real aggressive on the field and that I fought for everything,” Garza said. “Even for my size, he told me I was strong and fast enough to go against anyone. He liked my footwork, the drills that we did during that camp.”

Called the Lil Beast at 5-8, 150 pounds, Garza hasn’t let being undersized prevent him from being a force at linebacker.

“I have to get the job done is my mentality. Size doesn’t matter to me. I just look at everyone like a normal football player,” Garza said. “For me it is all about what I am going to accomplish on the field. I also have players looking up to me, so I have to continue to be a leader and just hoping it carries over to TLU.”

A Division III program, Texas Lutheran finished 8-1 in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference and 8-2 overall last season.

“They have a good medical program, and that is what I am going for — pre-med,” Garza said. “I thought the campus was just what I was looking for, small like West Columbia.”

Fellow linebacker McGaughey who can’t wait to get to Seguin, he said.

“It is awesome to have this day because I’ve dreamed of this since I first started playing this game,” McGaughey said. “Going with one of my best friends to go off and play football is going to be an adventure for us. We are going to dorm up together and play football. It is going to be a great experience.”

The 5-10, 225-pound McGaughey has played inside linebacker at Sweeny and is projected to remain there in college.

“The coaches there liked my toughness. It is something that they preach at TLU,” he said.

McGaughey’s dentist, who played football at Texas Lutheran, recommended he look into the school.

“Their football program has gone from a 2-8 team to an 8-2 team, and they are high on education,” McGaughey said. “Coaches make sure you have good grades and that is what I was looking for, because I knew I was going to need an extra push when it came to the academic side of it.”

Joel Luna is sports editor for The Facts. Contact him at 979-237-0160 or at joel.luna@thefacts.com

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