A pair of key contributors to the Creston/Orient-Macksburg football team signed National Letters of Intent to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level on Wednesday.
Keaton Hulett signed with Northwest Missouri State University, while Briar Evans signed with Morningside College.
Panther head coach Brian Morrison said it was a special day for the two athletes.
“It feels good for them,” Morrison said. “I think those kids put time in. You can see that the way they perform on the athletic field in all the sports they participate in. These kids are multi-sport athletes. They do an outstanding job in the classroom. They’re going to programs that are nationally ranked in NAIA and in the NCAA ranks. So just to represent Creston/O-M in that manner is outstanding for us. We feel very fortunate to have these kids be a part of what we did at Creston/O-M and now to further their careers and academically, as well.”
With Hulett and Evans signing their Letters of Intent, four Panther players in the past two years have signed on to continue their playing careers at the collegiate level.
Hulett and Evans join Collin Bevins (Iowa State) and Alan Smith (Morningside College) as players coached by Morrison who have signed with collegiate teams.
“It says we have good kids. Good kids that work hard, and it gives you a chance to win a lot of football games,” Morrison said. “If you have great kids who work hard, you’re going to be successful. I inherited a program that was outstanding to begin with, and I just feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach these guys and watch them excel. It’s been outstanding.
Hulett said it was a relief to finally have a choice made and have the signing done.
“It’s a weight off my shoulders,” Hulett said. “It was a struggle at the beginning, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen, what’s going to go on, but now that the decision’s made, it’s real nice.”
There was a lot to like about Northwest Missouri State for Hulett.
“The campus is awesome, the people are awesome,” Hulett said. “Mainly the coaching staff – they all really get along, and they’re nice people. The tradition down there is wonderful. That kind of helped, too. You look at it and you see the past, the good things that have happened in the past, that works well.”
Morrison said he believes Hulett will be a good fit for the Bearcats.
“He’s going into a situation where they don’t take kids just to take kids,” Morrison said.“They’ve been nationally ranked, I think, the last 12-13 years, been to numerous Division II championship games, and I think has won two or three. They just feel very fortunate to get him. I know that they’re just really blessed to get a kid that works as hard as he does. You won’t find a harder worker.”
Hulett said he plans to major in wildlife ecology, and he expects to redshirt his first year while he gains weight.
He projects as a defensive end, and said the weight range for defensive ends is typically about 240-245 pounds.
Evans agreed with Hulett, saying it felt good to finally make his decision just a few nights ago.
He chose Morningside over a list of schools that included Simpson, Central and Wartburg.
The Mustangs reached the NAIA national championship game last season.
Evans said he felt like the education program at Morningside was a good fit, as well.
“Obviously, I really liked their football program, but other than that, I really liked the facilities and the campus,” Evans said. “I’m not totally sure what I want to major in, but I’m looking at education, elementary education. I’ve visited with their department. It’s really nice. They have a really nice education program.”
According to Evans, Morningside coaches are looking at two different positions for Evans to potentially play.
“Since I played tight end in high school, they’re thinking about putting me there,” Evans said. “But they also want to see me as a J-back, which is a position for them that’s like a slot receiver – he goes in and out – but he never gets down in a three-point stance. Then they also said, depending on how much weight I put on, they could put me at tight end.”
His first year will mostly consist of playing junior varsity, since Evans will be stuck behind a pair of All-Americans.
Whatever position Morningside coaches choose, Morrison believes Evans will excel.
“He has good range, great hands, athletic and just has a huge upside,” Morrison said. “I know they’re very excited and very fortunate to get a kid of Briar’s caliber. He was voted a team captain, along with Keaton, by his teammates after the year was over, which as far as I’m concerned, is the biggest honor someone on our team gets. You can see that just by the way he displays himself on the field, prior to the game and during the game, keeping the kids motivated.”
One plus for Evans will be teaming up with former Creston/O-M teammate Alan Smith, who was a freshman on the Morningside team this past season.
“It kind of makes you feel at home,” Evans said. “Because you know someone there and especially since he’s on the football team, too.”