Anthony Vereen will not only be remembered as one of the best left tackles ever to play football for the University of Jamestown. Future discussions will also highly regard the young man's resolute character.
UJ's 2018 homecoming king and fine arts trombone musician was named one of NAIA football's best on Tuesday, Dec. 11. Vereen was one of five offensive linemen nationwide to be selected first team All-American by NAIA coaches.
Vereen is the 10th football player in Jimmie history to be named first team All-American. He was told the news around noon.
"I was eating lunch with my roommate and coach (Josh) Kittell texted me," said Veeren, who plans to graduate in December 2019 with a double major in business management and music performance. "I just shot up out of my chair and was showing all my friends the text messages. It was kinda out of nowhere."
It wasn't a shock, however, to those who faced the 6-foot-4, 290-pound tackle on the field. Kittell, having just wrapped up his third season as head coach of the Jimmies, said it wasn't uncommon for opposing coaches to mention Vereen's name on game day.
Jamestown finished the 2018 season-it's first in the Great Plains Athletic Conference-at 3-8 overall. Vereen helped UJ's ground game pile up 1,870 yards of rushing offense, while also helping pass protect for an additional 1,808.
"Obviously, Anthony made a huge impact in everything we did and people noticed," Kittell said. "Anthony came in with all the ability in the world, and he took coaching well for four years. He got better every day and dedicated himself in the weight room.
"He just continued to get better at his craft throughout his time here and because of that he was rewarded."
The big man from Las Vegas, Nev., added 20 pounds to his frame since his freshman season in 2015, and he diligently worked with UJ offensive coordinator and current associate head coach, Jason Challeen, on his foot work. Vereen is the third NAIA All-American Challeen has coached in his career.
"I came in not being able to kick step at all, and shout out to coach Challeen for taking the time and teaching me how to do that," Vereen said. "I had always been good in the run game, but I think over the years I got better at 1-on-1 pass rush, which I think helped me with a lot of the confidence issues I had in the game. We (the Jimmies) could run the ball on anyone."
Challeen said he remembers witnessing Vereen's physical ability and football acumen take over.
"There was just a point where he figured out that he was the biggest, baddest guy on the field and he kinda took over," Challeen said. "Not that he was mean or vicious, but he just played hard and went hard.
"I wish I could adopt him," Challeen added. "He's just a great kid and an incredible mentor to our younger offensive linemen."
Vereen was one of three GPAC players named NAIA first team All-American on offense in 2018, along with Morningside quarterback Trent Solsman and Dakota Wesleyan offensive lineman Trevor Wietzema. The full list of All-American recipients can be found at www.naia.org.
Vereen recently competed in the annual National Bowl presented by East Preps, which was Dec. 9 in Daytona Beach, Fla. The National Bowl is a postseason all-star game showcasing All-American and all-conference seniors from non-FBS schools to NFL and CFL scouts.
"I wish a lot of my teammates that I came in with stayed, but I know that college is not for everyone," said Vereen, reflecting on the Jimmies' seven victories in his tenure with the team. "Every year that we had a lot of turnover, the chemistry was just not going to be there and that kind of designated our (2018) season to go the way it did."
But Vereen, the first UJ football first team All-American since Dustin Erbes in 2010, said he's excited to support the Jimmies next fall as he finishes up his academic work on campus. It's possible he'll be found included in the UJ pep band, with trombone in hand.
"I'm anxious to see how they do," Vereen said. "I'm just very humbled and blessed to have had this opportunity, and I always try to thank God for everything he's done for me and my family."
University of Jamestown
1994 - Carlo Lucente.
1984 - Andy Menninger.
1983 - Barry Neumann.
1980 & 1981-Ron Hausauer.