A young man who refused to let a possible career-ending ACL injury keep him from his dream of playing Division I football and two best friends who will remain on the same team at the next level were part of a 16-student signing class Wednesday morning at Grain Valley High School.

Tristan Pfeifer, who boldly told Grain Valley football coach David Allie that he would be a Division I player back when he was in eighth grade, and longtime teammates Tate Collum and Ethan Macoubrie joined 14 of their classmates in one of the largest signing classes in Eagles history.

Pfeifer signed a national letter with Western Illinois University, a Football Championship Series (FCS) school in Macomb, Ill., while Collum and Macoubrie will attend Missouri Western State University.

“I was talking to Coach Allie the other day and he reminded me that back when I was in eighth grade I told him I would be his first Division I signee,” said Pfeifer, grinning from ear to ear. “That’s a pretty bold statement coming from an eighth grader, but playing college football – especially Division I football – has been my dream for as long as I can remember.”

That dream was almost shattered in the fourth game of his senior season when he tore his ACL and had to begin the long rehabilitation process.

“I remember the doctor bringing out the MRI results and telling me that I’d miss the rest of the season and he said, ‘Go ahead and cry if you want, let it all out,’” Pfeifer said. “But I wasn’t in the mood to cry. I knew with a lot of hard work I’d be back, I’d be fine.

“I remember (Western Illinois) Coach (Charlie) Fisher and Coach (Jared) Elliott calling me the day before, the day of and the day after my surgery. When I got hurt, a lot of big schools just dropped me, but Western Illinois kept in touch and told me they still wanted to be a part of their program. And I’m going to prove to them that I can help the program. I can’t wait.”

For Collum and Macoubrie, attending NCAA Division II Missouri Western in St. Joseph is like a dream come true.

“We’ve been on the same football teams since we were 7 years old,” said Collum, a quarterback in high school who will likely play in the secondary for the Griffons. “This is so exciting to be going to college with Ethan. We’ve had that chemistry at every level we’ve played and I can’t wait to play with him at Missouri Western. It really is a dream come true.”

Macoubrie – who was on the receiving end of many of Collum’s biggest passes for the Eagles when they topped defending state champion Harrisonville on a touchdown as time expired – is equally psyched about college.

“Nothing beats going to college, getting the chance to live out your dream, and playing with your best friend,” said Macoubrie, who will play tight end for the Griffons. “They have a great program and great facility at Missouri Western. We’re both excited to get up there.”

The Eagles also had two others sign Division I letters of intent. Rylan Childers signed to play women’s soccer at Missouri-Kansas City, joining her sister Reighan on UMKC’s roster, and Kayla Wade signed to run cross country and track at Arkansas State.

The remaining Eagle signees are Kylie Boehmer, softball, Avila; Taylor Bintliff, cheer, Avila; Cara McClain, softball, Central Methodist; Cortnee Barnett, soccer, Blue River; Ashlynne Welch, soccer, Monmouth College; Abbey Novak, soccer, Park University; Kailey Boyer, soccer, Metropolitan Community College; Kayla Townsend, softball, North Central Missouri; Kyle Parkhurst, football, Missouri Valley; Jake Shafer, baseball, Iowa Central Community College; Crichton Hill, baseball, Central Methodist; and Lindell Frye, men’s tennis, Kansas Wesleyan.