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Conner McKee walked through the Starkville Academy media center on Thursday morning much like he did last year when good friends Will Goodwin and Roy Miles signed soccer scholarships with Itawamba Community College.
Only this time, he stopped and discussed his own signing.
McKee reached his goal of following Goodwin and Miles last week by signing with Meridian Community College's soccer program.
"As I grew up and played from the seventh grade until now, I would walk through the media center, see all of the players sign and do the same thing I'm doing right now," McKee said. "I always wanted to be in this spot. Now that I've got the chance, I'm very happy to take it."
A representative from Itawamba Community College was scheduled to watch one of McKee's matches, but the action ended up being canceled.
McKee had first considered attending ICC, but Meridian Community College expressed interest.
After touring the campus in Meridian, McKee was impressed.
"During our game at Lamar, the Meridian assistant coach was watching the game, saw me play and talked to me after and set us up with a tour of the school," McKee said. "We loved it."
McKee made a return trip to Meridian where an offer was made.
Even though Goodwin and Miles went to a different school, McKee wanted to be in a position to move on to the next level like they did.
"I told myself that when I'm a senior, I want to have that same opportunity," McKee said. "It's been a big step from junior to senior because I've had a lot more on me with more decisions to make and I had to make them. Now, I have fulfilled what I wanted to do."
Volunteer soccer coach Robert Gardner saw the improvement in McKee's game following the Christmas break.
"He seemed like a different player," Gardner said. "He had a lot of intent and plenty of purpose with his play even in training. He was injured in our last training session before our first game, sat two games out and came back on a Saturday against Lamar which was fantastic. It was our best game as a team this season.
"From there it worked out for Conner and I'm proud of him."
McKee is the first signee for Gardner at SA.
As a new coach, Gardner was trying to get a feel for a team of 21 players, but he identified right away that McKee was going to be a leader for the Vols.
When it came time to vote for captains, McKee was one of the two players singled out.
"That's something you need with any team, no matter how experienced or inexperienced they are," Gardner said. "He really stepped up in being a leader. We expected great things from here and he got better as the year went on."
It was Gardner's wish to play McKee across the front line and thought that would be a more natural fit for him. Gardner ended up using him in many areas.
Even in shuffling him around to the midfield and outside, Gardner said McKee never complained.
"He just did his job and that's all you can ask," Gardner said.
McKee scored seven goals in over 900 minutes played for SA last season.
During the season, McKee said he learned how to control and possess the soccer ball better instead of just being on the move all of the time.
The commitment to practice and doing the things it takes to improve is something McKee wants to leave for future Vols to follow.
"Practice is important and always counts," McKee said. "Always work in practice as hard as you are going to in a game and go full out. The harder you work the harder your team has to work. Practice hard and practice as a team and the result will come out in the game."