Dante Jackson, seniors reflect on LHS experience at signing ceremony

LHS athletes pose for pictures with their families at Lawrence High signing day. Athletes, from left to right: Ekow Boye-Doe, Austin Quick, Dante Jackson, Jalen Dudley, Kristian Russell, Harrison King.

It was an early summer morning when Dante Jackson got the text message.

Jackson, the Lawrence High quarterback and Sunflower League co-Most Valuable Player, had just finished his summer workout. It couldn’t have been later than 8:30 a.m. or so when his phone buzzed with an “out-of-the-blue” message from Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins Jr.

“I wanted to tell you as soon as I possibly could that I was offering you,” the message read.

“I was kind of timid about it,” Jackson said. “It was crazy.”

Timid then. Excited now.

Jackson took part in a signing ceremony on Wednesday at LHS in which six athletes affirmed their college choices. Alongside Jackson, football players Ekow Boye-Doe (K-State), Jalen Dudley (Coffeyville CC), Kristian Russell (Washburn) and Harrison King (Baker) participated, as did Austin Quick, who signed to play baseball at KU.

The ceremony began with football coach Dirk Wedd speaking about all the players. He shared the story of asking Jackson to play quarterback for the first time and the surprise he felt at learning Jackson’s newness to the position.

“Did you play quarterback in the backyard?” Wedd asked.

“No,” Jackson answered. “They always threw me the ball.”

Still, Wedd had a feeling Jackson could play quarterback.

The coach watched Jackson take the field after a spring practice at KU in his freshman year. Jackson caught passes from KU’s quarterbacks, Wedd recalled, though it was what happened next that really impressed him.

“Once he caught it, he was throwing the ball back 30, 40, 50 yards,” Wedd said. “So I kind of filed that away.”

Jackson scrambled, passed and punted his way to several conference honers at his new position. Now, he’ll be going back to a familiar one.

Jackson will play wide receiver at Northern Colorado, while one of his top targets last season will be making a similar change nearby.

Even if Boye-Doe hadn’t already sent off his papers, he wouldn’t have been very convincing miming doing so at the ceremony on Wednesday. A majority of his right hand was covered up with a brace, which created a bit of an issue.

“I’m actually right-handed,” Boye-Doe said with a laugh. “I didn’t sign — or fake sign.”

Boye-Doe, sporting a purple K-State hoodie, earned some ribbing from baseball coach and KU graduate Brad Stoll during the ceremony. Yet it was a comment from Wedd that stood out on the day.

“We’re a platoon football team where you only play one way,” Wedd said, “except for one person.”

While the Lions had several players appear on both sides of the ball, Boye-Doe was the only one to consistently do so and start over several years, Wedd said. That won’t be the case at K-State, where Boye-Doe was technically offered as an “athlete” but plans to focus on the defensive side of things.

“I’m playing cornerback,” Boye-Doe said. “They throw it a lot (in the Big 12). I can’t wait.”

He wasn’t the only one with something to look forward to.

Quick, who will attend KU to pitch, was inspired by a comment made by Stoll moments earlier.

“In four years (it’ll be a) different party for him, signing a pro contract,” Stoll said. “So no pressure.”

Quick, a catcher-turned-pitcher, was in communication with the KU coaches for a while. He’d attended several camps at KU, where he was recruited primarily because of his “thunderbolt for a right arm,” Still said.

That arm allows him to hit the high 80s on the radar — and to “touch 90,” he said — though his arm isn’t yet a finished product. That being said, while Quick is excited for the next year — and a potential ceremony a few years after — Quick made it clear he isn’t neglecting the current season.

“(KU) is like two blocks away. That’s what coach always says,” Quick said. “We need to get up there, play state up at KU. We haven’t done that in a while, so right now that’s what we’re focusing on.”