For student-athletes, a national signing is a red-letter day

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WARWICK — For exceptionally talented student-athletes being presented with a College National Letter of Intent is an affirmation of all the hard work they’ve invested to be named among the very best in their sport, and will rank among their most memorable high school experiences.

An NLI is signed by a college-bound student-athlete agreeing to attend a Division I or II college or university for one academic year.

The signing ends the recruiting process because participating schools are prohibited from recruiting student-athletes who have already signed letters with other participating schools.

In November, four senior student-athletes at Bishop Hendricken High School were publicly celebrated for their achievements in being chosen.

The school invited the students’ family and friends — along with their peers — to a special assembly in the Dr. Daniel S. Harrop Theater which featured glowing tributes from school administrators and coaches. The event concluded as the athletes, donning the caps of their future colleges and universities, each picked up a pen and signed in unison the letters of intent arrayed before them.

Bishop Hendricken President John A. Jackson commended the student-athletes, who come from a variety of backgrounds and play different sports. The four honored represented the largest group of athletes signing from the school since 2011.

“No matter what their backgrounds are, when they first started, I’m sure there was a bit of trepidation. I’m sure there was a bit of intimidation because there are a lot of great athletes who have gone through this school, a lot of great teams have accomplished a lot. But this is the end of the journey for them and today we honor them,” he said.

For Michael Bittner, who signed his NLI to attend Providence College this fall, this journey took an unexpected turn.

A standout tennis player, Bittner found as he began high school that he also had a strong ability in Track and Field, particularly the high jump event.

Bittner has been All Class, All Division, and All State since his freshman year in high jump. He also won the Class A Championship, the Classical Classic and was ranked #1 in the state for high jump at the time of his signing.

He said it was important to him to be continuing the faith-based education that he has always known.

“It means a lot. I’ve been going to a Catholic school since I was three years old. Having the Catholic background has been a really big part of my education,” he said.

At Providence College, Bittner plans to major in biology and follow a pre-med course of study.

“Providence College is a great community. It seems like the perfect place,” he said.

The other student-athletes signing the NLI are:

Andrew Flint, who played varsity baseball for four years as an infielder, outfielder and right hand pitcher and was ranked #1 baseball player in Rhode Island and ranked 200 nationally by Perfect Game. In 2015 he played for the New York Mets National Scout Team at the Metropolitan Baseball Classic Tournament and the Boston Red Sox Scout Team at the Red Sox/Yankees Rivalry Classic. He will attend Elon University.

Justin Mazzulla, a guard who was named the 2015-16 Basketball Gatorade Player of the Year and the State Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. He has been selected as an All-State athlete for the past 2 years and as team captain has garnered over 1,000 career points and averaged 16.0 points per game at the offensive end. He will attend George Washington University.

Joe Tucker, who will attend Central Connecticut State University, is currently playing in his fourth year of varsity golf. He has been an all-state and all-conference athlete during his tenure and has captained the team for the past 2 years. He has won numerous junior and club championships throughout the state as well as runner up in the 2016 Challenge Cup and 2016 State Championship. Tucker is currently the #2 ranked junior golfer with the RI Golf Association.