Sporting the Signature

Catherine Prestoy

Somewhere, some kid is kicking a soccer ball or throwing a football and telling his family and friends, “Someday, I’m gonna be a college sports player!”
To be honest, though, six months later he’s probably going to let his sports equipment rot in their garage, moving on to his new dream of being an astronaut or a rock star.
But seniors Kylee Loneker and Shawn Knighton are different from “some kid.” Both have recently been signed to college teams — Loneker for soccer and Knighton for football — and are ready to take their talents from the Firebird fields to fields of higher learning.
“I’m going to Fort Hays State University,” Loneker said. “I loved the team and the school, and the town had a nice atmosphere. Since this is the second year they have soccer there, I just want top make a name for Fort Hays.”
Loneker’s father, Keith Loneker, motivates her to keep going.
“My dad played football when he was in the NFL, so I’ve been around sports my whole life, but soccer just stuck,” Loneker said. “I’m excited and nervous for college sports. I really want to do well.”
Now Keith Loneker substitute teaches at Free State. In the future, his daughter wants to be a teacher as well, maybe even at Free State, or possibly be the coach of the soccer team.
Shawn Knighton, who plays football and basketball for Free State, is headed about two hours southwest of Fort Hays to Dodge City Community College to play football.
“It would be more fun to be in college,” he said. “More freedom.”
Knighton hopes to continue on to a four-year college in the future, but for now, he is looking forward to playing for Dodge City.
“After basketball season, I’m going to start training,” he said.
Like Loneker, Knighton draws inspiration from his father.
“My dad used to play high school football and had a scholarship to play,” he said. “My father motivates me the most, [and] football is just fun for me to play.”
For younger students hoping to follow his path, Knighton has a piece of advice: “Just work hard, stay focused and don’t let anyone discourage you.”