Small town, big opportunity
Mount Ayr’s Sobotka draws interest from D-I schools
MOUNT AYR — Mount Ayr senior Jacob Sobotka dreamed of being a football player as a young child.
His dream is coming true, as he’s helped lead Mount Ayr to 13 consecutive regular season wins.
Last year, he was named to the INA Class 1A All-State first team as a utility player after leading the state in total yards and touchdowns for the Raiders, who bowed out in the state quarterfinals, just before reaching the UNI-Dome.
But, Sobotka’s dream isn’t quite totally fulfilled yet. He still has bigger dreams for after the conclusion to his senior season as a Raider.
Sobotka dreams of playing at the next level, in college.
And, it seems, that dream will come true.
“I’ve always dreamed of playing college football, so it’s great to know I might have an opportunity to do that,” Sobotka said. “Ever since I’ve been a little kid, I’ve wanted to be a football player. Almost every little kid does, dreams of playing with the big boys.”
But, Sobotka said he never imagined he’d have an opportunity to play at the Division I level in college since he’s from a small town and plays for a small school.
After his freshman year of high school, he attended a three-day football camp at Iowa State.
That’s when the Cyclone coaching staff began to take notice of Sobotka, and when he realized maybe his dream could come true.
“After the testing day, when we ran 40s and shuttle and broad jump is when I was first contacted by a coach, just because of the times I ran,” Sobotka said. “Then they watched me the rest of the camp, and liked what they saw.”
Iowa State was the first school to show interest in Sobotka. But after Sobotka attended a camp at the University of Iowa the following year, the Hawkeyes were quick to jump on the Sobotka bandwagon.
“That’s one of the most amazing parts, is that was one of the reasons I never imagined I would even get an opportunity, because I was from such a small school and a small town,” Sobotka said. “To go up to these recruiting things and see all these kids from the Des Moines area schools, and then I also have seen kids from Eight-Man schools, but I think it really shocked me that I even got a chance and that they even look at these small schools. I was just appreciative of being given that chance, given what kind of school I’m from.”
Mount Ayr co-head football coach Delwyn Showalter said it’s been a new experience for one of his players to be recruited by Division I teams.
“We’re not in a situation where this happens to us all the time,” Showalter said. “If you’re at a bigger school where you have the D-I coaches coming through all the time, you might get tired of it. We all take a lot of pride in what Jacob has accomplished. We’re excited for him and we’re sort of living vicariously through his experience.”
As far as Showalter can remember, the most recent Mount Ayr graduates to play at the Division I level are Clint Riggs (Iowa State) and Scott Solliday (Kansas), who both graduated in 1985, and Ronnie Landphair (Iowa State), who graduated in 1992.
Showalter said it’s easy to see why Sobotka is being recruited by collegiate programs.
“He’s got the complete package,” Showalter said. “He’s got the size, he’s got the speed, he’s got the strength. He’s intelligent. He’s football intelligent, but he’s also a tremendous classroom student.
“His work ethic is second to none,” he continued. “In our size school, it’s not unusual to have a kid with a couple of those attributes. It’s pretty rare to have a kid with all of those attributes. We’ve maybe had a kid with the speed or strength to play Division I football, but didn’t have the size. Jacob is a kid that seems to have what it takes in all those areas.”
And that’s been the feedback Sobotka has gotten from the coaches who have recruited him.
Sobotka said coaches also feel like he fits the mold of the other in-state kids they’ve recruited — kids who weren’t highly recruited, but go in and work hard and are developed into strong, collegiate players.
It’s those type of players that gives Sobotka hope. Players like Iowa’s James Morris, who played high school football at Solon, Kansas State’s Jake Waters of Council Bluffs St. Albert and former Iowa tight end Brandon Myers of PCM, Monroe, who currently plays for the New York Giants.
“It shows me that it can be done, that it’s not impossible,” Sobotka said. “There’s no reason to doubt myself that it can be done.”
“I think both Iowa and Iowa State do a great job of taking kids with a strong work ethic and kids who want to play, and do a good job of developing those guys,” Showalter said. “He reminds me quite a bit of Brandon Myers, who played at PCM. I can see him developing into that type of a player, which wouldn’t be too bad.
Currently, Sobotka might be best known for running over defenders as Mount Ayr’s dual-threat quarterback. But, he’s also an outstanding defensive player at linebacker for the Raiders, and that’s where it appears he’ll likely end up in college.
Sobotka said Iowa, Iowa State and Kansas State are looking at him to play linebacker, while Northern Iowa and Northwest Missouri State have said they will be flexible with him.
“I think in the discussions I’ve had with these coaches, they really feel like he’s got a lot of untapped potential on the defensive side,” Showalter said. “We have to have him focus on offense for us. He plays defense, but we don’t play him there full time. He really hasn’t had an opportunity to focus his energies on defense. They look at what he’s done on offense and his size and speed, and once he has the ability to focus on defense, he’ll really blossom on that side.”
And, Showalter believes Sobotka’s best days of playing football are still ahead of him.
“He’s got a lot of room to grow,” he said. “He gets into college and is working in their weight program and eating at their table, he’s going to get bigger. When he’s playing on one side of the ball and not having to play offense and defense, his technique’s going to get better. As good as he is now, his best football is ahead of him.”
For Sobotka, the highlight of his recruiting process came just a few short weeks ago, when Iowa State head coach Paul Roads visited Mount Ayr Community High School.
Rhoads visited three weeks ago, before Mount Ayr’s home game against Bedford. He visited with Sobotka and the Mount Ayr coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham then attended the first half of the football game.
“That was really exciting just to have him here and get to talk to him one-on-one,” Sobotka said. “It was really a high point. It was a highlight of the whole recruiting process, to see him walking in the halls we walk in every day.”
“When Paul Roads shows up and is standing in our weight room watching kids work out, that’s exciting for everybody,” Showalter said. “We’re all kind of sharing the excitement of what Jacob’s going through.”
Sobotka doesn’t have any plans to make a decision in the near future. If he is offered a scholarship by a program, he has until February to sign a National Letter of Intent.
For now, he plans to continue focusing on the 2013 Mount Ayr Raiders’ season, because he still has two more dreams to fulfill during his high school career.
“We want to win a district championship,” he said. “That’s the first and foremost thing we want to take care of. And then we want to make a deep playoff run. if we can get to the Dome, that would be amazing. That’s a dream we’ve all had. We have a picture of it above our weight room and we hit it every day before we go in there.”
Jacob Sobotka recruiting profile
Mount Ayr senior
• Height — 6-2
• Weight — 220 pounds
• 40 yard dash — 4.52 seconds
• Bench press — 250 pounds
• Squat — 485 pounds
• Hang clean — 315 pounds
• Schools interested — Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, University of Northern Iowa, Northwest Missouri State