KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Devin Haney and Randen Plattner long ago made their commitments, but the duo ceded some of the spotlight in a joint signing ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 20 at Park Hill High School.
Park Hill produced three Division I products for the NCAA’s new early signing period with senior Ronnie Bell the latest to commit. Previously signed to play basketball at Missouri State, he asked for and received a release last week, committed on Monday to Michigan and signed with the Wolverines alongside Haney (Kansas State) and Haney (Northern Illinois).
The three posed for pictures together behind a crowded table full of Park Hill’s trophies from this past season plus Bell’s for winning the Otis Taylor Award and Simone Award — given to the top wide receiver and top overall player in the Kansas City metro area.
“With all of his trophies here, we got to take pictures with them,” said Plattner, who will be a long snapper at Kansas State. “He’s a great athlete, and I’m happy he’s on our team.”
Bell entered his senior season with 10 career touchdowns and apparently set to continue his athletic career in basketball. He committed to Missouri State in early September and signed in late November.
A third-year starter in football, Bell fashioned a superstar season, setting career-highs and school-records with 89 catches for 1,605 yards and 21 touchdowns. He tallied at least one receiving touchdown in nine of 13 games and added three total rushing touchdowns in two of the games he ended up shutout through the air.
Bell had three 200-yard receiving games (school-record 259 in a win over Liberty North) and seven games with two or more receiving touchdowns, including four in the first of two wins over Lee’s Summit. Despite all the highlight reel plays, he said Michigan coaches specifically mentioned his blocking ability during the short recruiting process.
While the recruiting process could have dragged on into February, Bell decided to limit the distractions, which included placing his cell phone in another room so he could concentrate on homework.
“I knew no matter who came after me, I just really had a feeling I would fall back to Michigan, so I didn’t see a reason to wait,” Bell said.
Not widely considered a big-time football recruit, Bell’s profile jumped when Michigan made the original offer. He’s been well known all season in Missouri, but he’s now seeing outside critiques on everything from the level of competition in his game film to his size.
Listed at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds, Bell knows there will be work to do, specifically with developing a football body, but he’s ready to prove doubters in decision to pursue football wrong. The offers didn’t come until late due to the commitment to basketball, making his prospects a question to some outsiders.
Bell welcomes the challenge.
“I feel like I’ve always kind of had a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “On Twitter last night, there was some dude just going in on me so I’m expecting that; I’m ready for that. He’s just another one I’m going to have to prove wrong.”
Haney played varsity as a defensive back for four years for Park Hill, and he also chose to stick with his biggest suitor.
Northern Illinois sought Haney out early in his career, and the 6-3, 185-pound cornerback remained committed to the Huskies as his profile raised in the area. He finished his career with 158 total tackles, 12 interceptions, 66 passes defensed and four fumble recoveries.
Haney was a unanimous all-state selection this season (first team on the media list) — honored for his role as a shutdown corner. He grabbed the interception in an early season upset of Blue Springs that briefly pushed Park Hill to No. 1 in the state rankings and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the Class 6 District 4 title game victory over Rockhurst — his second career score.
After signing day, Haney planned to finish his high school work by the end of the week and report to Northern Illinois to start competing for playing time right away.
“I feel like it really went set in stone for me until I actually get up to the university and actually get there,” said Haney, who made nine interceptions the past two years despite many teams avoiding his side with pass plays. “It’s a true blessing to be able to sign a four-year scholarship like this. It’s just hard work paying off.”
Plattner snapped for Park Hill each of the past three seasons, part of a strong special teams unit that produced current Northwest Missouri State kicker Parker Sampson.
Listed as a 6-3, 205-pound defensive end, Plattner made 15 tackles in three seasons and recovered a fumble as a senior. However, he spent time in specialty camps learning to long snap and started to generate offers as he improved on the specialty skill.
Kansas State’s offer won him over, and he committed this past fall before making the unique signing official on Wednesday.
“Everybody finds their niche, and this is mine,” Plattner said. “I’ve gotten really, really, really good at it. Everybody can do it, but there’s a few people that can do it really, really well. I’ve taken that to who I am as a person.”
Park Hill went 39-10 the past four seasons, reaching the Class 5 semifinals in 2014 and the Class 5 quarterfinals in 2015. The Trojans moved up to Class 6 for the past two seasons, winning a third district title in four years and first in program history at the state’s top level.