6 Lawrence High standouts sign to play football at next level after special 2020 season
photo by: Shane Jackson
Just like all other aspects of life, signing ceremonies have been altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And that’s why six seniors from the Lawrence High football team were thankful for what took place Wednesday afternoon at LHS.
Cole Mondi, Porter Dannevik, Dylan Gillespie, Graham Hough, Connor Gellender and Teagan Flynn all signed their national letters of intent in the main gymnasium on Wednesday. All wore masks and sat at socially distanced tables.
Athletes’ family members watched from the bleachers, rather than being on the court with the players. But it was still a chance for LHS teammates to celebrate their collegiate decisions together.
“Our school and the parents on the team just did a great job year-round of giving us situations like this,” Mondi said. “With the year that we have, things have just been difficult. Being able to have a signing (ceremony) with my teammates is great. I’m just so proud of these guys.”
Of those six standouts, Mondi is the lone athlete heading to a Division I program to continue his football career. Mondi, who garnered plenty of interest from FCS schools and Division II programs, chose to join the Kansas football team as a preferred walk-on.
“It feels great,” Mondi said of signing with KU. “To spend an additional four to five years at the place that really made me the football player and person I am today is absolutely surreal. I’m just ready for the challenge.”
photo by: Shane Jackson
Wednesday’s ceremony was a chance to highlight how special this senior class really was for the Lions. All six of these LHS players made an impact at the high school level, which is why they will be continuing their football careers at the next level.
Gillespie, who set the tone on the LHS defense from his defensive line position, is headed to Baker University. He will have the opportunity to play for head coach and LHS alumnus Jason Thoren.
Dannevik will be an interior offensive lineman for Fort Hays State University after starting for three years at center with the Lions. Hough, a speedy running back, is continuing his career at Pittsburg State University.
Gellenger (kicker) signed to Hutchinson Community College, while Flynn (defensive end) inked his intention to play for Independence Community College.
“Being able to be here with my teammates was great,” Dannevik said. “I didn’t know if we were going to be able to do anything like this because of COVID and everything. I know they are all going to do great and I’m super excited for them.”
All six seniors played a part in the Lions going 17-3 over the past two seasons, which included a 9-1 campaign and a trip to the Class 6A quarterfinals in 2020.
Flynn played with a high motor on every down to bring the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Gillespie was a force in the trenches, and offensive linemen never seemed to have an answer for his physical style of play.
Hough didn’t get as much of a workload because he shared a backfield with Devin Neal, who is the top-ranked player in the state and already signed to KU. Yet that didn’t stop Hough from working harder than most players on the team, which ultimately led to him delivering when his team needed him in the second half against Bishop Carroll.
Gellender, one of the team’s captains, was exceptionally good at directional kicking on kickoffs throughout his career. Dannevik anchored the offensive line from his center position, providing consistent quality snaps and strong pass protection.
Mondi made all the tackles on the defensive side of the ball from his linebacker position, which included a game-saving stop on a 2-point conversion against Olathe North.
“It was really special,” Flynn said of his fellow senior teammates. “From freshman year all the way to senior year, you could just see how special all of us were in our own way. Our own abilities were shown on the football field.”
More local football standouts sign
On the other side of town, Free State had a pair of football players sign their national letters of intent on Wednesday.
Free State cornerback Ryley Wheat will continue his football career at Fort Hays State University. Wheat, who is 6-foot and 180 pounds, was a two-year starter for the Firebirds. This past season, Wheat recorded 22 tackles, one interception, one pass breakup and one tackle-for-loss.
Daniel Kufahl is headed to play football for Washburn University after receiving an offer from the Ichabods on Dec. 15. Kufahl, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, is a tight end and was a strong receiving threat for FSHS.
Talented running back Tyler Bowen, who transferred from Free State to Tonganoxie for his senior season, is planning to play for Washburn as well. Tonganoxie tight end/defensive end Dallas Bond is going to Pittsburg State. THS linebacker Branden Martin will be moving on to Butler Community College.
Baldwin linebacker Adam Callahan will play for William Jewell, while fellow teammate Quinton Johns chose to continue his career at Ottawa University. BHS lineman Toby Thomas is staying in town to play for Baker at the next level.
In addition, Eudora outside linebacker Devon White signed to Dodge City Community College.