Local talent makes FSCC intriguing
College football is finally here.
That’s exciting news for fans of the Kansas Jayhawks, which are among the favorites to win the Big 12 Conference North Division this year, as well as the Kansas State Wildcats and Missouri Tigers.
Beyond the major Division I level, however, lurks a program worth keeping an eye on thanks to the bevy of local talent it scooped up during the past few years.
Fort Scott Community College made a solid effort to tap into the Kansas City talent pool two years ago, nabbing local talent such as Shawnee Mission Northwest linebacker Tyler McKee and Lansing’s Brad Terron, among others. The results paid off with back-to-back recruiting classes that helped the Greyhounds surge in the National Junior College Athletic Association rankings. They climbed as high as fourth and ended the season with a 9-2 overall record, a 6-1 mark in the Jayhawk Conference, a No. 6 ranking and a 30-14 victory over Blinn College in the CHAMPS Heart of Texas Bowl. Among the players they’ve sent on to major NCAA Division I programs is kicker Jeff Helton, who signed with LSU after the season ended.
The good times don’t look to end any time soon for Fort Scott as a busload of local talent will join the Greyhounds on the field this fall. Most of those additions will take an already gifted roster and make it very, very fast.
For starters, Bonner Springs standouts Jonathan and Jeremy Walker — one half of the Class 5A state record-setting 400-meter relay team, and multiple-time individual track state champions — will add a new dimension to the Greyhounds on both sides of the ball.
Jonathan Walker is slated to play running back at Fort Scott and Jeremy Walker is projected to be a defensive back. Given their natural speed and elusiveness, however, both easily could fit into the Greyhounds’ special teams plans as well.
The Kaw Valley League influence grows exponentially with the addition of another set of brothers, Justin and Nicholas Woods. Unlike the Walker twins, the Woods brothers were in different classes, but both were KVL rushing champions. Justin Woods was a 2007 MVHS graduate and former 100- and 200-meter state champion who played for Ron Prince at Kansas State before transferring to Fort Scott. Nicholas Woods led the KVL in rushing the past two years and was one of the state’s most physical running backs.
“There’s just an incredible amount of speed and ability at the speed positions,” Mill Valley coach George Radell said in describing Fort Scott’s recruiting class, and the local prospects in particular. “I know it’s college football, but those kids are some of the fastest kids in the country — certainly in the state of Kansas. Kicking to those guys is going to be scary.”
Mill Valley linebacker Slobodan Kanatzar is headed to Fort Scott, as are Schlagle wide receiver Elijah Ming and running back Roman Byers, Washington quarterback Josh White, Sumner Academy quarterback Spenser Bennett and Rod Jefferson, Freddie Owens and Christian Buckner of Piper, giving the Greyhounds a heavy Kansas City influence.
Even though it’s about a two-hour drive away, the list of local talent on the roster and the program’s recent success are plenty of reasons to pay attention to what’s going on at Fort Scott. Perhaps there are some future Jayhawks, Tigers and Wildcats on the roster — or maybe some Oklahoma Sooners or Florida Gators. Perhaps the current local players on the roster from the Kaw Valley League and Kansas City Kansas League will perform well enough that their college coaches (and others from their league) will offer scholarships to even more local players in the future.
As the two levels of amateur football that we pay closest attention to — high school and NCAA Division I — get set to kick off, let’s not forget about the intermediary step of junior college, where many of the nation’s best players groom their talents, and where many more overlooked, local up-and-comers are trying to seize their opportunity to shine.