MARYSVILLE — Two — now former — Lakewood football players sat together and signed Letters of Intent early Wednesday morning in the Lakewood High School gymnasium. One had known this day was coming for a while. The other found out last weekend.
Dustin Stanton and Jerrod Jones made their commitments official on national signing day, the first day of the year that college football recruits can sign documents pledging their services to the universities they chose to attend.
At 7:02 a.m. Stanton signed papers laid out in an Oregon State folder, while Jones signed papers with Eastern Washington University letterhead.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Lakewood head football coach Dan Teeter after the papers had been signed. “You couldn’t ask for better people.”
For a complete list of the players who signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, click here
Stanton verbally committed to Oregon State in May, 2011 and, unlike many recruits often do, never wavered on his decision. The Lakewood tight end said he liked “pretty much everything” about Oregon State, and that’s why he chose to take his talents to Corvallis, Ore.
“I like the atmosphere in Corvallis,” Stanton said. “It’s just a college town. A lot of fun.”
Around this time last year, Stanton visited OSU for the spring game. He met OSU head coach Mike Riley and instantly formed a bond with his future coach.
“I love Mike Riley,” Stanton said with a smile.
The feeling is mutual. “Dustin Stanton will be really, really fun to watch as he gets older and bigger and stronger,” Riley said during his press conference on Wednesday. “He’s got great size, broad shoulders. He’s a great athlete.
Interestingly it was Stanton’s basketball skills that first drew Riley’s interest. “What really drew us to him initially was just athleticism,” Riley said. “The first clip I ever saw of him was playing basketball.”
Stanton won the Coach’s Award at Lakewood his sophomore and junior seasons, which Teeter says goes to a “great athlete with a great attitude.” However, on Stanton’s first day of practice Teeter wasn’t sure his young freshman would attract Division-1 schools.
“Honestly, as a freshman, sophomore we didn’t see D-1 at that point,” Teeter said. “We knew he was a good athlete.”
But Stanton developed into an exceptional tight end. His athleticism, combined with his 6-foot-6 frame, helped bring some attention to the Lakewood product.
“The last couple of years there wasn’t a lot of doubt,” Teeter said. “When you’re 6-6 and athletic it opens a lot of schools’ eyes.”
Stanton has been playing football since fourth grade. He said that this scholarship offer — which affords him the opportunity to play in the Pacific-12 Conference — validates all the time and effort he put in on the football field.
“It feels good,” Stanton said. “It feels like all of my hard work is paying off.”
The 2012 high school graduate, who has a feeling he will redshirt during his freshman year, is heading to OSU around July 11 to take part in the university’s Bridge Program, which helps incoming students adjust to college life. While he admits he’s a little nervous, Stanton’s more excited than anything else.
“I can’t wait to be a Beaver,” he said.
While Stanton knew his future plans since last year, Jones discovered he was going to play collegiate football a few days before he signed his letter of intent. The defensive lineman, who played only one year of high school football, visited Eastern last weekend and received a scholarship offer soon afterwards.
Jones is the third Cougar, along with Stanton and last year’s Justin Lane (Illinois State), in the past three years to get a scholarship to an NCAA program.
“I’m so excited I can’t even explain it,” Jones said.
Jones said signing the letter was one of the top moments of his high school career as well as “one of the best moments of my life.” The 6-foot-5 lineman hopes the folks at Eastern can read his signature. It was a little wobblier than usual.
“I was so excited I was shaking while signing it,” he said.
Teeter, who said Jones “was a nice surprise,” may have sparked a little more interest if he had played for more than just the one season. He flew under the radar simply because a lot of schools hadn’t heard of him.
However, Jones’ coach says he has great fundamentals, and that Eastern is getting a quality football player.
“He’s got really good hips,” Teeter said. “He’s really explosive. We saw the athleticism for a big guy … and then he has the speed to go chase guys down.”
The Lakewood coach is excited to follow Jones’ collegiate career, because he sees Jones as an already great player who will only continue to improve.
“His upside is tremendous,” Teeter said. “He’s only going to get better and better. Every year of experience helps.”
Jones won the Cougars’ award for Most Improved Player at the end of the season after going from a first-year player to a future member of a college football team in five months.
“I don’t know if he started week one on the d-line,” Teeter said.
But Jones continued to work hard, and eventually became a highlight on the co-Cascade Conference champions’ squad. In fact, working hard is the advice Jones gives to high school juniors out there who are thinking about playing football for a year.
“Just work hard, get in the weight room and stay committed to your team and it’ll work out,” Jones said.
Teeter, who says he has a couple kids on next year’s team that may follow in the footsteps of Stanton, Jones and Lane, does as much as he can — and as much as the players’ families want — to help his players through the recruiting process.
It can be an extensive process and a lot to take in, but he says he has one thing to consider above everything else when an athlete makes a decision.
“Go where you’re going to feel the most comfortable,” Teeter said.
For Stanton and Jones that meant Oregon State and Eastern Washington. And even though the two friends are going to different schools, it turns out Stanton and Jones aren’t done sharing a football field.
The two will meet again in 2013, although this time the former teammates will be on opposite sidelines. Eastern is scheduled to travel to Corvallis to start the 2013 football season against the Beavers.
So who will Teeter be rooting for come 2013? Unsurprisingly, the coach said both.
“I’m rooting for them both to have a great game and the Lakewood Cougars to be a great team in 2013,” Teeter said.