On Feb. 23, three varsity football players from Maricopa High School signed national letters of intent to further their athletic and academic careers in college.  

Family, friends and teammates gathered in the MHS library to celebrate Chris Hayes, Ian Palm and Nate Leon as they announced their decisions.  

“These guys have been consistent hard workers,” Coach Tevin Rutherford said. “I’m excited to see them take their talents to the next level.”  

From Rams to Ravens, Hayes and Palm are following Rutherford’s footsteps as they join Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. And Leon is heading to Ripon College in Wisconsin, to bring his Arizona talent to the frozen North.  

Leon, an offensive lineman for the Rams, has wanted to play college football since he was 6 years old. After getting offers from Crown College, Ripon and Manchester University, Leon said he made his decision based on academics and athletics.

“They reached out to me a while ago and we really built a strong relationship,” Leon said. “Now I’m looking forward to playing in the snow.”  

Despite a tough season and challenging opponents – the Rams finished with a 0-11 record – Rutherford said Leon is a very driven student-athlete.

“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve had the pleasure of coaching,” Rutherford said. “And I know he’ll continue that at the next level.”  

Palm, a middle linebacker, was recognized as a breakout defensive player in 2022, after overcoming serious injuries in 2019 and 2020. During his freshman year, Palm broke his collarbones leading to two surgeries and many months of recovery.   

After talking to coaches at Coffeyville College, Palm was happy that everything fell into place.  

“It just felt right,” Palm said. “And when I visited, I loved the college and their programs, so I’m excited.”  

Hayes, a versatile player seeing time at middle line backer and on the offensive line, is excited to continue his career on the gridiron.  

“I’m not sure what I want to do career-wise yet,” Hayes said. “So just playing football and being able to play on the next level is what I really look forward to.”  

The three soon-to-be college athletes thanked the audience for supporting them through their athletic career and closed the ceremony with photos and hugs.  

“Fellas, it’s going to be hard work. It’s going to be more than you’ve seen on a football field before,” Rutherford told his former players. “But I think you guys put in the work and you’ll get the best out of it.”