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Taylor Null signs his letter of intent to the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, surrounded by, from left, grandfather Ronnie Null, mother Netta Null, grandmother Jeannine Null, grandfather Dale Taylor, sister Tori Null, grandmother Penny Taylor, and father John Ross Null. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Three of the key components of the 2017 Class 5A State Champion Artesia High School football team took the next step in their athletic careers Wednesday afternoon at Bulldog Pit.

Quarterback Taylor Null, linebacker Miguel Martinez, and defensive back Denver Williams signed their letters of intent before family, friends, coaches and teammates. Null will be joining the ranks of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin Falcons next fall, while both Martinez and Williams will don the green and silver of the Eastern New Mexico University Greyhounds.

Bulldog head coach Rex Henderson said he was proud of the trio of athletes for putting in the extra work necessary to compete at the collegiate level.

“(Taylor) was always in the weight room, year-round, early in the morning before a lot of people were there,” Henderson said. “He worked on his footwork on his own, and there were plenty of days I’d show up and see him throwing into the net by himself or with a receiver, making sure he got some extra work in so he could be where he wanted to be.

“Miguel was a three-year starter for us on defense, and he’s always been a hard-hitter. That’s probably the thing that separates him from a lot of people – he’ll go in and make that physical tackle. He’s gotten better each year, and I know that physical part of it is what the Eastern guys looked at and what stood out to them and makes them excited to have him as part of their team.

“Denver is one of those guys who always expressed a desire to go play football, and looking back, he didn’t have the speed – and he knew that – to play college football. He worked really hard on his own between the end of last football season and this one, doing some things to develop his footwork and speed to where he would be able to do this. He had a really tremendous playoff run that kind of elevated his status in the eyes of college programs, and he got a lot of interest in the weeks after the state game.”

Null finished his senior season with 3,792 passing yards, the second-most in program history in a single season. He topped the school record books in touchdowns in a season with 52 and had a completion percentage of .670, going 244-364.

He was presented the Leadership Award at the Bulldogs’ end-of-season banquet and earned first-team All-State and Class 5A-6A South All-Star honors.

With many area schools focused more on their run than pass games, Null did a bit of searching before deciding UTPB was his perfect fit.

“I went on a visit, and I really liked their coaching staff and their campus,” Null said. “I really like the direction their program is heading, and I want to be a part of it.”

He plans to study kinesiology while competing for the Falcons.

Miguel Martinez signs on with ENMU, joined by parents Miguel Sr. and Juanita Martinez, and cousin AJ Garcia. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Martinez finished his 2017 campaign with 193 total tackles, earning him both the program’s Meacham Tackle and Defensive Player of the Year awards. He also had two sacks and one interception on the year and was a first-team All-State and South All-Star selection.

“I chose ENMU because it’s a good program, and they were very interested in what we’re all about and how well we do,” Martinez said. “The coaches keep up with the athletes and their grades, and the teachers seem like they’re always on the students, as well.”

Martinez plans to pursue a degree in physical therapy while adding his physicality to the Greyhound D.

Denver Williams signs his letter to Eastern New Mexico University with, from left, grandparents Ronald and Patti Horner, parents Perry and Missy Williams, uncle Ross Horner, and aunt Julie Horner at his side. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Williams competed well in the defensive secondary for the ‘Dogs all season but stepped his game up to new heights in the playoffs, posting five of his six interceptions there, all at game-changing moments.

He also closed out his senior year with three fumble recoveries and 75 total tackles. Williams was named MVP of the 2017 Bulldog football team and was a first-team selection to the All-State secondary.

“ENMU is a really good football program, and not only do they focus on football, they focus on getting us graduated as their main priority,” he said. “They’re a winning program, and a lot of the people are people I’ve played against in New Mexico, so it’ll be fun to go there and experience playing with them.”

Williams is as yet undecided on a path of study.

The three also had a few words of advice for current and future Bulldogs hoping to continue their football careers beyond high school.

“Always work hard, because you never know who’s going to want to offer you,” Martinez said.

“Stay focused and buy into what the coaches are telling you, because they’ve been through it and they know what they’re doing,” said Williams.

“Work hard and doors will open,” said Null. “If you keep working hard, you’ll set up a lot of opportunities for yourself.”