ELYRIA — Dakota Tallman’s family and friends won’t have to buy a new wardrobe to watch him play football next season.
The Elyria Catholic senior will still be wearing green and white next fall after orally committing to continue his football career at Eastern Michigan University.
Tallman, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound left tackle-nose guard, was highly recruited by a number of schools in the Mid-American Conference, but made his final decision after traveling to Ypsilanti last week with his father, Donald, and teammate Lucas
Ball to watch the Eagles open their season against Howard.
“The atmosphere and the field and everything felt right to me,” said Tallman, who was a second-team Division IV All-Ohio player last year. “After the game we were standing outside and all of the players were talking to their families and friends outside the locker room. It’s seemed like a real family atmosphere.”
Tallman, who has been a starter at Elyria Catholic since midway through his freshman season, said wanted to go to a school outside of Ohio, yet close enough to home so his family would have a reasonable drive to attend his games.
Elyria Catholic coach Mike Polevacik said it was easy to spot Tallman’s talent the first time he put on a Panthers uniform.
“We knew he was a special player,” Polevacik said. “He was one of the biggest guys on the team as a freshman, and the way he handled himself and the talent he displayed we knew we had to get him on the field right away. After his sophomore year I sat down with Dakota and his father and told him if he continued to put the work in he would have his choice of colleges.”
Polevacik said Tallman’s contributions to the Elyria Catholic program have gone well beyond what the fans see when they file into Knights of Columbus Field on Friday nights.
“He’s been the heart and soul of this team,” Polevacik said. “After his sophomore season he became one of the leaders in the weight room. He took on that role of being one of the faces of who we are as a football program and as a school.
“He took leadership classes and he’s a leader on the practice field, not just leading by example, but he’s also a vocal leader who’s not only there to encourage his teammates but he will also get on them if they are not performing up to their potential.”
The recruiting process began for Tallman at the end of his freshman year. The Oberlin resident is happy he can put it behind him.
“Now it’s just about senior and finishing up with the guys I’ve been with since freshman year,” he said. “We’ve been like a family for the past four years.”
Although Tallman has played left tackle throughout his high school career, he said he expects the Eastern Michigan coaching staff to convert him to guard or center.
Polevacik said college scouts and coaches have told him Tallman is one of the top senior offensive linemen in the state.
“There are about 720 schools with football in the state of Ohio and Dakota would start at any of them,” he said. “He’s as good if not better as any lineman at any Division I high school around the state.”
Even before he earned a college scholarship, football has made a big difference in Tallman’s life.
“Football has taught me how to be a man, how to accept responsibility and how to be a leader,” Tallman said. “And the decision to play football at Elyria Catholic has helped to make this all possible. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”