When he got to Alma Middle School, Dakota Shelton thought of himself as a basketball player.
But coaches convinced him he was destined to play football. Wednesday, he signed a letter of intent to college football at Ouachita Baptist.
An all-state and all-conference right tackle, Shelton (6-3, 283) decided Sunday night to sign with OBU over Arkansas Tech.
Shelton was joined by fellow teammate
"I felt welcomed there," Shelton said. "They knew who I was, what I was about. I just felt at home when I was there. I felt like that’s where I wanted to spend the next four or five years of my life."
"Dakota’s one of those guys that you knew he had the size athletic ability, he just needed to sharpen his skills," Alma head coach Doug Loughridge said. "He told me the first day after workouts that he was going to be a better offensive lineman because of the way we were working him."
Shelton got a little bit of a jump on OBU last summer while attending a football camp. There, he met OBU assistant coach Brett Shockley.
Shockley and OBU assistant coach Chad Adams helped recruit Shelton.
"I went to a couple of camps this summer, trying to just figure it all out, and my favorite coach to work with was coach Shockley," Shelton said. "I get along with him really easy, and that’s what I like about him."
"The way I understand it, they don’t have certain positions on the line," Shelton said. "They have their five best offensive linemen, and that’s who is going to play on Saturdays."
Shelton said the Tigers want him to redshirt. And, by the time 2016 rolls around, he expects to play either guard or tackle.
"I high school, I played right tackle," Shelton said. "My job was to take care of the defensive end. With the way our offense ran, I had a lot of double teams, which I liked."
Shelton was a two-year starter for Loughridge and was smitten with his new coach from the first day on.
"I bought into the system, along with all of my teammates, right when coach Loughridge got here," Shelton said. "Being an Airedale meant a lot to me. I’ve grown up here, and I watched people go through the system and there were a lot of guys I looked up to. Being that guy that got to play on Friday night, and play in coach Loughridge’s system was really a good experience — I loved it."
"He made himself a good offensive lineman," Loughridge said. "With his size we thought he would have the ability to play at the next level."
Hayden Cole, Van Buren
College: Arkansas Tech University
Height: 6-3, 300
Van Buren offensive lineman Hayden Cole definitely received a little taste of what college football will be like after playing in the two best conferences in the state.
"You would have to think that playing against Conway, Bryant and Greenwood like we did in the Central last year helped, but he’s also had a good dose of Bentonville, Fayetteville and Har-Ber in the West," Van Buren head coach Brooks
Coatney said. "There’s probably not very many guys that have had that kind of experience going against those types of programs."
Cole started 20 games at guard the last two seasons. He signed a National Letter of Intent with Arkansas Tech University on Wednesday.
"I went up there my junior year right after the Springdale Har-Ber game," Hayden Cole said. "Going up there and seeing everything, the campus is gorgeous, I love it. Everybody has accepted me and brought me like one their own."
Cole received plenty of experience against some of the best players in the state the last seasons.
"The West had a bunch of big-time players like Joshua Frazier, who signed with Alabama, and going up against them," Cole said. "Holding my own against him showed me how it’s going to be in my college career and playing against big-time players like that."
Jake Folkerts, Alma
College: Arkansas Tech University
Height: 6-3, 192
Position: Deep snapper
Jake Folkerts signed a letter of intent to play football at Arkansas Tech on Wednesday. A two-sport star for the Airedales, Folkerts is going to ATU as deep snapper.
"That is a trade that, if you can do it, you might play for a long time," Loughridge said. "Jake’s one of the best I’ve seen in the way he zips it back there. He’s a big kid who could put on some weight, and who knows, maybe he can play down the road somewhere?"
Like all teams, the Airedales have a deep snap coach who develops players.
"David Hale is our deep snap coach and he’s one of the best," Loughridge said. "Jake had a special knack for that."
"I’ve always enjoyed Arkansas Tech University," Folkerts said. "I’m a third generation to get to play at Arkansas Tech, and that was a big deciding factor for me. We have a good signing class coming in and I think we have a chance to win a conference championship and go 10-and-0."
Folkerts’ uncle, Kenny Robertson, played baseball at Tech, and his grandfather, Lynn Robertson, played basketball for the school.
Nick Houston, Van Buren
College: Henderson State University
Height: 6-7, 315
Position: Left tackle
Van Buren left tackle Nick Houston also signed on Wednesday, inking with Henderson State University.
"It was a real homey type of vibe," Houston said. "The coaches went out of their way to make me feel at home. I’m ready to be a Reddie."
Houston played his senior season at Van Buren after transferring from Greenwood, where he started two seasons.
"Coming to Van Buren better served my needs," Houston said. "People in Van Buren want to win just as much as in Greenwood. I decided to come be a Pointer."
Cole and Houston played on the left side of Van Buren’s offensive line all 10 games in 2014.
"The foundation of any successful team, other than maybe the quarterback, is the offensive and defensive lines," Coatney said. "Those two guys were instrumental. Hayden has been in the program a long time and blessed with good size. He’s a good kid.
"He’s a versatile kid. He played some defensive line for us this year. He’s very deserving of being a college football player."