Caleb Blakesley didn't think national signing day was anything to get excited about.
Ottawa High football coach Pat Boeh disagreed.
"It's a big day for our community, to have a kid that's been highly touted sign with a major university that's less than 30 minutes away," Boeh said Wednesday after Blakesley signed to play football at Kansas University. "I'm really happy for him."
Blakesley was the first Ottawa player to sign with a Division One program in Boeh's 18 seasons at the school.
Though some athletes wait until signing day to make their final choice, there was no suspense involved with Blakesley's signing. It was just routine paperwork.
"It's good to have it solidified, but my decision was made a long time ago," Blakesley said. "And I knew my decision wasn't going to change."
Blakesley made an oral commitment to KU on Aug. 7 after attending one of the Jayhawks' preseason practices. Coach Mark Mangino and his staff didn't waver in their commitment to the 6-foot-5, 277-pound lineman after he suffered a season-ending knee injury during Ottawa's second game.
"I've been thoroughly impressed with coach Mangino and his staff, particularly Clint Bowen," Boeh said. "They did an outstanding job of keeping track of Caleb and keeping his best interests at heart."
Blakesley was cleared to play basketball Jan. 4, three weeks ahead of schedule.
"The knee is doing great," he said. "It's coming back. I just have to keep working at it."
Blakesley will make the 20-minute drive into Lawrence during the summer to take part in the Jayhawks' offseason workouts. After missing most of his senior season, he's eager to play as a college freshman.
"From the way they're talking, I don't think I'll red-shirt," he said. "That comes down to how good of a summer you have and how good you practice in the preseason."
Mangino made similar hints, calling Blakesley one of the potential sleepers in KU's 25-man class. The KU coach lauded Blakesley's explosive first step to go along with his 277-pound frame.
"Caleb Blakesley is a much, much bigger and stronger and physical player than a lot of people thought," Mangino said. "He's a specimen. If he's healthy, which we think he will be after his knee surgery, he could be a guy that gets some playing time maybe as early as this year."
Blakesley wasn't the only Ottawa player signing Wednesday. Running back/linebacker Vashon Perryman signed with Ottawa University.
Elsewhere around the area:
- McLouth punter and kicker Ripp Harrison signed with McPherson College, and defensive lineman Joel Dickerson picked Hutchinson Community College over Coffeyville.
- Today at Baldwin, all-state lineman and Shrine Bowl selection Kyle Ruona is expected to sign a letter of intent with Baker.