By BRAD KEITH
(March 30, 2017) — So much for flying under the radar.
An invitation for a sophomore quarterback to Nike Football’s The Opening will no doubt have college football recruiters dusting up their Texas geography skills and locating De Leon on a map.
The Bearcats already restored the once mighty program to the Texas 2A football map, reaching the state quarterfinals last fall for the first time since 1992, the last year the Bearcats, then coached by legendary Grady West, reached a state final.
Now the head coach is David Yeager, and if you haven’t heard, his son, multi-sport star Kevin Yeager, is a gamer.
A big-time gamer. Just ask Windthorst, who Yeager torched in the regional semifinals – an upset win by De Leon according to most prognosticators – or any opponents that run across Kevin in any number of sports.
Yeager passed for 3,022 yards and 51 touchdowns while rushing for another 536 yards and 7 TDs last fall, and he also started at safety and made 102 tackles and three interceptions. All that came in 12 games, not 14, as he missed two do to injury.
He no doubt produced enough impressive clips for the De Leon staff to produce a quality highlight film of the budding star, which was enough to catch the attention of a Nike Football talent scout.
“We sent film out a couple months back when the guy was on the road, so we didn’t hear anything for a while. Then we got the call saying they wanted me to come to one of their regionals,” said Kevin. “It’s a great opportunity to compete against some of the best football players and quarterbacks and learn from some of the best coaches in the nation.”
But it was an opportunity he still wasn’t sure reach fruition.
Kevin was a late invitee, not learning of his selection until the weekend of the Dallas regional, held at The Star in Frisco on March 6. Stephenville junior Easton Jones was in action in Frisco, but Yeager chose to stick with his high school baseball team that weekend.
“We had a baseball tournament, and I didn’t want to miss that, so we had to try to find a weekend where it would work,” said Kevin Yeager, who competes in every sport De Leon offers male student-athletes with the exception of cross country. “This weekend is just the one we could make work, and they have a regional in Chicago, so that’s where we’re going.”
Kevin is so busy because he competes in football, basketball, baseball, track and field and golf.
“If we had tennis I probably would be playing,” Yeager said with a laugh. “Not cross country though, I get enough of that in track.”
Make no mistake, though – football comes first.
“I’ve definitely always loved football and wanted to go big in football,” he said.
Kevin and Coach Yeager will leave following De Leon’s baseball game Friday for a hotel near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and take a red-eye flight from Dallas to Chicago on Saturday.
“It’s going to be my first time on a plane, so I’m pretty excited about that. And we’ll get there and have all day Saturday in Chicago before the camp on Sunday, and we come home Monday afternoon,” said Yeager. “Dad’s going with me and that’s going to be great. No words can describe how awesome it is being a coach’s kid and getting to experience all these things with my coach slash dad.”
The one-day camp is at the recently renovated Halas Hall, home of the Chicago Bears.
“I googled the facility on my phone and it’s pretty new and super nice,” Kevin said. “It’s an awesome feeling just to know I’ll get to see their facility, but to get to compete there and against other great athletes who can really show me where I’m at and what I need to work on, it’s a great opportunity.”
An opportunity not only for Kevin, but for De Leon.
“I think it’s just another sign of the rise of something great that we have coming up,” Kevin said. “This helps get our name out there to even more people so they can see what’s going on at De Leon. They can see the type of athletes we have here, and see that we do have guys who can play at the next level.”
He’s humble enough to consider the opportunity a learning experience, too.
“I’m going to learn some drills and things that I can do to get better and bring those things back here to De Leon,” he said.
Its the 21st year of Nike Football’s The Opening regionals. Quarterbacks vie for a spot in the Elite 11 camp at The Opening Finals, in hopes of landing one of the coveted spots in the Elite 11 fraternity. Yeager is the fourth area quarterback invited to the regionals, the first outside Stephenville. He is following former Stephenville standouts Jevan Snead in 2005, Jarrett Stidham in 2014 and Jones last month. Snead and Stidham each made it all the way into the Elite 11 fraternity.