SALINA — Dalton Kuhn ended one chapter of his football career on the ultimate high note, helping lead the Smith Center Redmen to a Class 2-1A state championship in 2017.
Kuhn has spent the last couple months gearing up for the next chapter, already getting a taste of what it’s like to be a Fort Hays State Tiger.
The defensive end has been in Hays since June 1 for summer workouts as he joins the Tigers on the heels of their best season in program history.
“It’s definitely something special,” Kuhn said of FHSU, which won the MIAA championship and went undefeated in the regular season last year. “When I went on my visit there, the coaches just really emphasized that it was family based. Once you get down there, it really is. It’s a great program and we’re at a high right now, so we’re just ready to keep growing.”
Kuhn, who will play for the West in the Kansas Shrine Bowl at 7 p.m. Saturday in Pittsburg, is getting a chance to bond with some future teammates during the West’s camp in Salina.
Four other FHSU signees will play for the West — Derby’s Brody Kooser, Hutchinson’s Dylan Jensen, McPherson’s Wyatt Seidl and Dodge City’s Dawson Williams.
“I knew a couple from workouts but there’s a few that haven’t been down here yet, so getting to meet them has been a lot of fun,” Kuhn said after a practice for the West team on Tuesday at Kansas Wesleyan.
Kuhn, listed at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, helped the Redmen to an 11-2 record last fall and a 43-7 win over St. Mary’s-Colgan in the title game at FHSU’s Lewis Field Stadium. He recorded 95 tackles as a senior for the Redmen and was named The Hays Daily News Defensive Player of the Year while earning several All-State honors.
“A four-year starter and being close (to a state title) three years and then finally capping it off our senior year, that was just something really special,” Kuhn said.
FHSU emerged as a strong possibility early in his recruiting process.
“I was always pretty high on Fort Hays State just because of the coaching staff,” said Kuhn, who also was a standout wrestler for Smith Center. “(FHSU strength and conditioning coach Doug) Boucher, he’s from Smith Center so I knew him. I got to know the other coaches and built a bond with them.
“I had a lot of other schools on my radar but, ultimately, Fort Hays won.”
Kuhn is one of four area players for the West, along with Phillipsburg’s Kirk Coomes, Plainville’s Hayden Gillum and Goodland’s Levi Archer.
Coomes, Gillum and Archer are headed to Kansas State. Coomes and Gillum are preferred walk-ons while Archer signed a grayshirt scholarship offer with the Wildcats.
Smith Center coach Darren Sasse is an assistant for the West squad.
“My favorite part really has been just bringing everyone together all over the West,” Kuhn said. “Some of these guys we played against. Seeing them on film and playing against them, and being able to play with them now as teammates has just really been fun.
“We’re definitely competitive. We’re always doing competitions during practice. We’re all athletes here and we’re all ready to compete.”