Five local players were among the 34 signees for the Fort Hays State University football team, the defending MIAA champions.
Tiger head coach Chris Brown, who guided FHSU to an 11-1 campaign and the No. 1 seed in Super Region 3, announced the signings Wednesday at a news conference in the FHSU Tiger Room.
Among the signees from Hays High School were Brown’s son, Hunter, the Hays High School quarterback/defensive back and four-year varsity letter-winner for the Indians.
He was joined by teammates Trey VanPelt, Kyler Koenke and Dylan Schmidtberger. The foursome held a signing ceremony Wednesday morning in the HHS cafeteria.
Brown is listed for the Tigers as a defensive back. As a player, his father and new coach was an All-American safety at Pittsburg State University.
“I’m glad he’s here. If he would have played anywhere else, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to watch him play Saturday. He’s a young man that’s going to compete every single day. He’s going to work hard. He wanted to be part of the program.”
Schmidtberger, while battling injuries through his senior campaign, picked up an all-Western Athletic Conference nod last fall. He is listed for the Tigers as a linebacker at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds.
VanPelt, the Indians’ standout linemen, is listed as a lineman at 6-foot, 230 pounds for the Tigers. The Indian senior also is arguably the school’s best wrestler where is a three-time state qualifier.
Koenke is listed as a defensive lineman at 6-1, 195 after starting on both sides of the ball the last two season for the Indians.
From across town, Thomas More Prep-Marian senior Alex Patel also signed with the Tigers, wrapping up his senior campaign last fall for the Monarchs.
The five locals were among 30 high school players already signed with the Tigers with the possibility of a few more in the coming weeks, Brown said.
“I’m very very pleased. It’s a very talented group of young men,” Brown said. “Not only on the football field, but also in the classroom.”
Among them was another signee from the immediate area and a total of 20 from Kansas. The Tigers also picked up three high school signees from Missouri, three from Oklahoma, two from Colorado, two from Texas and one each from California, Florida, Nebraska and Nevada.
“It’s just a group that is very solid. They’re going to be committed to what we’re doing,” Brown said of the Kansas signees. “They’re young men that wanted to be here.”
The most notable from the area is Smith Center senior Dalton Kuhn. The Hays Daily News Defensive Player of the Year, Kuhn was an integral part of the Redmen’s run to the 2017 Class 2-1A state championship at Lewis Field Stadium. Also a standout wrestler, Kuhn recorded 95 tackles for the Redmen in the fall, including 20 for loss. He also received numerous all-state honors. Kuhn was receiving looks and offers from all over, including Kansas State University.
“We got the kids we went after, and we got a very good group of kids,” Brown said.
The Tigers picked up two players from McPherson High School, including defensive back Drew Labertew (6-3, 195) and defensive end Wyatt Seidl (6-3, 230).
In addition, FHSU announced the signing of four transfers from the junior college ranks. Included in that list is former Ellis High School tight end Brendon Brenner, who spent one season with Hutchinson Community College.
Brenner had four receptions for 49 yards as a freshman in 2017. The 6-foot-4, 240 pounder also was a standout scorer on the basketball court during his time in Ellis.
Among the things FHSU was looking for with this recruiting class was size. After the Tigers suffered an early exit from its first visit to the NCAA Division II playoffs, Brown noted they needed a bit more length to beat a team like Ferris State, which defeated the Tigers 31-21 in November at Lewis Field Stadium. The MIAA championship, Brown said, helped FHSU get to some of those types of kids.
“They’re big kids, kids we’re looking for to help us win conference championships and win national championships,” Brown said of this class. “You’ve got to have long, lean guys. This class will bring some of that to our team.”
“Are coming here to get their degree. I’m excited about them. It’s a really good group, very good character kids. We asked a lot of questions about these young men.”
I’m really excited about this class and the things they’re going to do here in the future.
They’re hard-working kids. Most of them came from winning programs and won a lot of ball games.
It’s just a group that is very solid. They’re going to be committed to what we’re doing. They’re young men that wanted to be here.
This group is going to help take us to the next level.
A lot of these guys we recruited there were a lot of different schools recruiting them as well. Some of them committed really early and you didn’t know if something would change.
We got the kids we went after, and we got a very good group of kids.
I think it helped us more than anything getting different kids in here. There’s not many guys under 6 foot. They’re big kids, kids were looking for to help us win conference championships and win national championships. You’ve got to have long, lean guys.
We needed some length. We didn’t have a very tall team. This class will bring some of that to our team.