By Joseph Santoliquito

PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — This time of year always holds a special meaning to all of the quiet, alone time logged by high school senior athletes across the country. It’s the time when seniors commit to college and continue their love of a game that for many of them started just a few years beyond the span they learned to walk.

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National signing day held a special meaning to area high school seniors, but it may have meant a little more to a trio of players in a tiny school in South Jersey called St. Joseph’s.

Where most student-athletes can’t wait to get out of their respective high schools, the seniors at St. Joe’s (Hammonton, NJ) love their school. So when Rocco Ordille, from Hammonton, signed with Bucknell University; Justin Kennedy, from Sicklerville, signed with Central Connecticut State University and Knikeem Lewis, from Mays Landing, signed with Sacred Heart University for football scholarships Wednesday afternoon, it came with a bittersweet price.

The trio is leaving a program that was ranked No. 1 in South Jersey throughout the season by Philly.com and was the overall area’s No. 3 team, according to CBSPhilly. The Wildcats are six-time state champions. All this trio has known is winning at St. Joseph’s and they played a large part in it.

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Their scholarships were a tribute to all of their diligence and those times alone when they ran, when they didn’t want to. To the times they lifted, when their friends may have been sunning themselves at the beach. To the times they pushed themselves more than they thought they could.

“This is a major relief, because the whole recruiting process was stressful,” said Ordille, a running back and defensive back for St. Joseph’s who is projected to be a wide receiver at Bucknell. “Signing was a lot of weight off of my shoulders. But this is not easy. This team was very tight, and we were more friends than we were teammates. We all love this school, and this is going to be a big change going to play somewhere else.”

Ordille was being looked at by Penn and Bucknell, but he wanted a little space from where he grew up and in Bucknell he found a comfortable distance where his parents can watch him play without getting on a plane.

“Even when you’re little, playing in college is something you always dream about,” Ordille said. “I really enjoyed Bucknell. I like the open campus and that was a big deal to me. This next step will definitely be different, but it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

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