Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
National Signing Day on Wednesday saw many high school athletes make their commitment to play at the next level. For some of the top football players at BoCoPreps schools, they will be continuing their careers at the next level, including right here in the state of Colorado.
Only a select few that get to stay home at the next level will make trips to Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs to play at the FBS level programs in the state. Some will go the direction of the FCS and play at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
For the majority, staying home means going to the Division II level and play at the schools in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The 11-team conference features six schools in Colorado while the other five schools range from Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah.
“I know a couple people from Frederick that go to Colorado Mesa and one plays on the football team already,” Frederick’s Logan Robinson said. “I took my official visit there and it had the qualities I wanted. Frederick is similar to the area there. I like the town and the people and felt like it was a welcoming place.”
Robinson was one of 10 athletes from BoCoPreps schools to make a commitment to an RMAC school to play football. He will join the Mavericks football team after leading the Warriors to the Class 3A state playoff tournament his senior year.
“It’s an unreal thing. I didn’t think I would play at the next level,” Robinson said. “I’m excited to see how far I can make it as a preferred walk-on.”
About 15 miles south of Frederick High School, Lee Biersner of Legacy High School was part of the largest signing class in school history and also announced that he would be playing football at Colorado Mesa. His high school career included three trips to the Class 5A state playoff tournament. The offensive and defensive lineman for the Lightning faced some of the top teams in the highest classification in his high school career.
But like his new teammate, it was the opportunity to play at the next level that he wanted, and one he ultimately got with Colorado Mesa.
“Five years ago, I never thought this would be possible, being a short lineman and playing at a great division II program,” Biersner said.
The schools in the RMAC know the impact of recruiting in their own back yards and have maintained their commitment to keeping local kids at home as much as possible. That standard has stood out to many of the seniors who committed on Wednesday.
“It makes us believe that they can trust us to work hard and do the best we can to make team better,” Robinson said.
“I feel like the Colorado and the RMAC is unique,” Biersner added. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else… these schools want to keep kids involved and develop them.”
With so many Colorado kids committing to RMAC schools, it also makes for a unique experience playing college football. Some teammates in high school will continue to play together at the next level. Many will split for the first time and become league rivals.
Saturday’s could soon become reunions for many former high school athletes.
“I think that will be fun,” Robinson said. “I’m looking forward to it. If I see someone I know (on the other team), I’ll probably joke with them about the seasons we’re having.”
It also sets up to get revenge from the high school days and to try and get the upper hand at the next level.
“If we end up playing against someone from Grandview and we whoop them, it would be even sweeter,” Biersner said, referring to Legacy losing to Grandview in the playoffs twice in his high-school career.
Playing in their home states with teammates and rivals are not the only perks these seniors find in joining an RMAC school for football.
In the 2018 football season, five schools in the RMAC finished with a winning record and two went on to the NCAA Division II Playoffs. It was only five years ago that CSU-Pueblo won the National Championship over Minnesota State-Mankato. Even the teams that do not finish with winning records can challenge and compete with the rest of the league.
“It’s awesome to be able to play for a successful program,” Biersner said. “(Colorado Mesa) has been great and hold themselves to high standard. A 7-4 year is a rough year for them. I can’ wait to grow and develop.”
Other RMAC commitments by local athletes
Two schools that made it to the NCAA Division II playoffs from the RMAC last year, the CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves and Colorado School of Mines Orediggers, both landed some athletes from BoCoPreps schools.
Jayme Nelms and Nate Hackney of Erie will be teaming up in college down at CSU-Pueblo after committing on Wednesday. Nelms played tight end and defensive end for the Tigers and thrived from his defensive position to finish his high school career with 142 tackles, eight sacks and one interception. Hackey also had a good career on the defensive line with 146 tackles, seven sacks, four interceptions and four forced fumbles while also anchoring an offensive line that helped Erie average 242 rushing yards per game in 2018.
Another commitment to CSU-Pueblo football comes from Steven Croell in Broomfield. In his three years starting at quarterback for the Eagles, he threw for 4,176 yards and 43 touchdowns. The Eagles made it to the playoffs all three seasons he started, including a trip to the Class 4A state championship game in his sophomore season in 2016.
Owen Weber from Legacy will join the trio at CSU-Pueblo, choosing to join the Thunderwolves as a preferred walk-on. In his senior year, Weber had 26 receptions for 438 yards from his wide receiver position.
Heading to Golden to the Colorado School of Mines will be Kyle West of Skyline. The three-year starter surpassed 3,000 career receiving yards this past season. His career ends with 191 receptions and 28 receiving touchdowns for the Falcons. His play helped the Falcons reach the Class 4A state championship game back in December.
The other RMAC school from Colorado to land a couple of commitments Wednesday was Fort Lewis College in Durango. Specifically, they hit Mead High School to land teammates Brennan Dibella and Preston Hall. Both offensive lineman had big seasons up front to lead the Mavericks in helping their rushing game average 277.2 rushing yards per game. Hall played at the center position and is listed at 6-foot-1 inch and 265 pounds. Dibella played at tackle and stands a commanding 6-feet-5 inches and 315 pounds.
The one athlete that will play football in the RMAC will be Preston Stansel of Boulder High School, but he will be playing outside of Colorado. Stansel did a little bit of everything for the Panthers his senior year, throwing for 291 yards, rushing for 268 and catching a team-high 21 receptions for 185 yards on offense. On defense, he recorded 23 tackles and led the team with three interceptions. He signed to played football at South Dakota School of Mines on Wednesday.