Colby Dunn had to be accepted before he could accept a scholarship offer.
Picking a football program with the academic pursuits he was after proved to be everything for the West Marshall High School senior. Drake University is that fit.
Dunn has signed his letter of intent to play football after being accepted into Drake's College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, fulfilling his desire to put on the pads collegiately while also focusing on his goal of becoming a pharmacist.
PHOTO BY AARON BURDORF/MID-IOWA ENTERPRISE
West Marshall High School senior Colby Dunn, seated center, signed his letter of intent to play football and attend the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences next fall at Drake University. Dunn is joined by his parents Mark, left, and Annette, right, and West Marshall football coach Ken Winkler, standing.
"Academically for me it's the ideal place," Dunn said of Drake. "North Dakota State is about the only other one, and they offered me a preferred walk-on, but that's too far away when I can get the same thing a lot closer to home at Drake."
The Bulldogs are an NCAA Division I-AA program, competing in the Football Championship Subdivision as a member of the Pioneer Football League. Drake has claimed at least a piece of the last two PFL titles, playing conference games from San Diego, Calif., to Jacksonville, Fla.
Head coach Chris Creighton has a 38-17 record after five seasons in Des Moines.
"It's a program that's turning around," Dunn said. "It wasn't really a hard decision. Once I met my position coaches it made it easier to commit."
Offensive line coach Rick Fox is an assistant head coach with 26 years experience, while defensive line coach Dain Taylor was a second-team All-American at Drake who played two seasons in the Arena Football League.
Dunn, who started on both the offensive and defensive lines for West Marshall, said he will play wherever the coaching staff tells him to.
"They actually have not decided," said the first-team Iowa Newspaper Association all-state offensive lineman. "I don't really think I could choose. Whatever gets me on the field as soon as possible."
That's the way West Marshall's 27-year head coach sees it too.
"They seem to be extremely interested in Colby as an offensive and defensive lineman," Ken Winkler said. "I think he's got the potential to be a really good college player. He's a long way from weighing what he can weigh with his frame and I think he's a prospect to play on either side of the ball.
"He's athletic, he plays basketball and is on the track team. He's got some talent and intelligence and work ethic, and combine all three and I think Drake is getting a good one."
The 6-foot-4 Dunn weighed in at 240 pounds during the Trojans' fall football campaign. He earned all-state, all-district and Times-Republican All-Area honors as an offensive lineman while standing among West Marshall's defensive leaders. Dunn was a team captain and a member of the National Honor Society.
The Trojans finished eighth in the state - tops in Class 2A - in rushing yards, and the team averaged 7.6 yards per play offensively. Dunn started at right guard on offense, and as a shade tackle on the defensive line he was second on West Marshall with 78 tackles.
"As a defensive lineman he runs well, and that's a tremendous asset," said Winkler. "As an offensive lineman he's got good height, which all colleges are looking for, and he could put on 50 pounds and not lose the athleticism.
"I think the potential for him is unlimited."
Dunn turned down offers from NCAA Division II schools Northern State and Upper Iowa, and North Dakota State's invitiation, to be a part of Drake's 22-player recruiting class that signed Wednesday.
"They've been having some success recently since Coach Creighton got there," Winkler said. "Drake has to do some traveling, it's not like they're just staying in the midwest, but they've got a beautiful stadium down there in Des Moines. It's a good situation for him."