Next steps: Four Blue Jays continuing football careers
Blayke Simmers, Adam Kallenbach, Devin Beach and Brode Hillstrom all signed to play collegiate level football on Feb. 2.
JAMESTOWN — Blayke Simmers, Devin Beach, Brode Hillstrom and Adam Kallenbach capped off their prep football careers with a Class A State Championship, but the four wanted more.
"I love the sport, it’s something I’ve done more then half my life and it’s something I want to continue doing," Simmers, a former center for the Jamestown High School football team, said.
"I chose NDSCS (North Dakota State College of Sciences) because they have an amazing head coach and coaching staff that I believe can help make me a better player and help create my success in football,"
Simmers said the college recruitment started when he posted his football highlights on Twitter and tagged colleges. NDSCS then contacted him. Simmers got an official offer in December — a couple of months after he went to one of the Wildcats' playoff games to meet head coach Eric Issendorf.
"From his freshman to sophomore year he put in a lot of time and definitely improved and changed his body, and changed his strength, speed and athleticism and all that kind of stuff," JHS head football coach Bill Nelson said of Simmers.
Issendorf, the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) Coach-of-the-Year, led his team to an undefeated 8-0 record during the regular season and a quarterfinal playoff win before the season ended in the MCAC semifinals.
"What I showed on my highlights definitely helped to show what I’m capable of doing and how much more I can improve," Simmers said. "They expect a lot and that’s something I’m capable of doing.
"I’ve proven it on varsity and JV. In JV, Coach (Marty) Hochhalter put me wherever he needed me. On varsity, they needed a new center and I’ve never played center before so I had to step things up and I did."
While the jump from prep to collegiate athletics will certainly be tough and training will take up a good portion of their weeks, Simmers said, collegiate coaches have told him that Nelson's training and conditioning programs have set a good basis for training at the higher levels.
"I’m grateful for my coaches who helped me become the person I am today," Simmers said. "I’m grateful that I had to chance to play and grow up with the group of guys I did."
Those guys Simmers grew up with are a part of the approximate 3% of high school football players who go on to play in college. The last three years, the Jays have sent five to six athletes to collegiate football programs across the Midwest.
"Everyone has good attributes and accomplishments and they've all put in a lot of time," Nelson said. "All are definitely worthy of it that's for sure."
Beach said MSUM was the first school to reach out to him regarding the possibility of playing in college. Beach said he reached out to Kallenbach's older brother, Jared, and former Blue Jay quarterback Tommy Falk, both starters for the Dragons to get their perspective on the program.
"I was not able to play my junior year of football so recruitment was difficult but due to my sophomore year MSUM still had the confidence to reach out to me my junior year and I was able to go to a camp at Moorhead," Beach said. "I played well and got my offer the next day."
Beach verbally committed to the Dragons midway through the 2021 football season. Kallenbach announced his official commitment in late November. Hillstrom and Simmers did not officially announce a commitment prior to National Signing Day.
Prior to the Class A State Championship, Beach had recorded 18 receptions for 356 yards, averaging more than 19 yards per catch and more than 32 yards per game at receiver. On defense, Beach made 28 solo and 40 total tackles — eight of which came from behind the line of scrimmage.
Kallenbach a wideout, recorded 642 yards on 41 receptions; while on the ground, he managed 93 yards. As a kicker, he was 35-of-43 from extra point range. Kallenbach wrapped up his final prep season as a Class A first-team All-State selection with 41.5 tackles and nine interceptions.
Hillstrom took off and gained 288 yards on only 12 receptions this Fall. The 6-foot-5 powerhouse averaged more than 41 yards per game prior to the state title tilt.
Nelson said his longstanding relationship with MSUM head coach Steve Lagua combined with prior Blue Jays attending MSUM and a world-class effort from Kallenbach, Beach and Hillstrom at the high school level, have all contributed to the trio getting the opportunity
to play at the collegiate level.
"All three kids have put in a tremendous amount of time and their play on the field has warranted an opportunity to play at the next level," Nelson said.
Nelson said the Dragons are looking at Beach at multiple linebacker positions, Kallenbach as a free safety and Hillstrom as a tight end. The trio will be joining, Jared, Falk and Blaize Elton. Jared and Falk are currently starting for the Dragons while Elton is redshirting.
"All three fit the mold of what they are looking for their defense or offense," Nelson said. "All four guys know that they've got a lot of work ahead of them. College football is a tremendous opportunity but it's also a job.
"If they thought they were busy in high school it's going to be about three times that come college but it's a phenomenal experience for all of them — that's for darn sure."