A lack of imposing physical stature and presence on a struggling team weren’t deterrents in Alex Summerow's quest to continue his football career.

The 5-foot-11, 160-pound athlete from Benton made up for it with a load of versatility and a little encouragement. Summerow signed and sent his letter of intent to William Jewell on Wednesday afternoon, solidifying a future he hadn’t envisioned until just a couple years ago.

“It’s a huge accomplishment, I believe,” Summerow said. “I never thought something like that would happen to me. To get that opportunity, to have other people extend it out, it feels really good. It’s a dream come true, kind of.”

The dream started the summer before his junior year, when Benton assistant Hulio Burton took Summerow aside and virtually promised him a chance at the next level. That came via recognition of the youngster’s raw speed and athleticism.

“He told me, ‘I believe in you,’” Summerow said. “I was a lot more committed to football; I listened to him, and that’s when I started believing in it.”

That made for some more muscle tone on his wiry frame, increased attention to detail and, eventually, a breakout senior season.

Playing receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive back and returning both punts and kickoffs, Summerow stood out for Benton, which finished 1-9. His numbers: 56 rushes for 239 yards (4.26 yards per carry) and two touchdowns, 23 receptions for 276 yards and four touchdowns, one kickoff return touchdown and one punt return touchdown.

Summerow earned second-team all-Midland Empire Conference honors on both offense and defense and made his way onto the All News-Press third team for defense. He also caught the eye of several small colleges in the region, including Heart of America Athletic Conference members Baker and Avila.

But then William Jewell, which moved up from the HAAC to Division II in the summer of 2011, came calling with a half-tuition scholarship.

Wanting to see the world a little bit and study nursing, Summerow realized Liberty, Mo., was the place for him. The Great Lakes Valley Conference has members in seven different states, and Jewell’s nursing program is regionally renowned.

Summerow joins Lawson products Justin Blevins (defensive lineman) and Drake Mortimer (linebacker) and 20 other recruits who also signed Wednesday with Jewell. The Cardinals went 2-9 (1-7 in conference) last season, their first as a full member of the GLVC.

Midland moves in

A novelty locker room item drew Central running back/linebacker Brandon Perkins to Midland University.

A ping-pong paddle.

The Midland football locker room contains a ping-pong table, the site of many tournaments featuring the Warriors coaching staff. One assistant keeps his paddle in a lock box.

No one’s allowed to touch it.

“(The coaches) have a nice, joking-around mentality, but they also know when it’s time to be serious,” said Perkins, who signed Wednesday with Midland. “I liked that mentality a lot.”

That same youthful, energetic spirit from first-year head coach Josh Gehring and his young staff made an unprecedented recruiting push in St. Joseph and the surrounding area this year.

Along with Perkins, three other area athletes signed letters of intent to play for the school in Fremont, Neb. Lafayette linebacker Austin Day committed Monday to the Warriors, and Doniphan West (Kan.) running back/linebacker Jordan Sellers and Atchison (Kan.) offensive lineman Tyler Hunt also ended up at Midland.

Traditionally, the Great Plains Athletic Conference member hasn’t scoured northwest Missouri or northeastern Kansas much for talent.

Day, who plans to move back to free safety after gleaning first-team All-MEC accolades as an outside linebacker, picked the Warriors over other NAIA schools like Missouri Valley and Peru State for the same reasons Perkins did.

“It’s really close out there, a great family atmosphere,” said Day, who recorded 58 total tackles (32 solo), nine tackles for loss, 16 quarterback pressures and a pair of sacks this past fall. “Their coaches like to have fun and interact with us and not just do their job.”

For Perkins, Midland presented a chance to make up for lost time — try his entire junior year and half of Central’s games in 2012 due to multiple knee injuries.

When he was on the field this past fall, Perkins averaged 11.2 yards per carry, scored three touchdowns and was credited for 12 tackles.

“Nobody wants a kid who’s torn his ACL twice and cracked his kneecap,” Perkins said. “When I got this offer, it kind of took me by surprise, and I accepted it.”

Central coach Jeff Wallace believed Perkins had potential Division I ability before injuries ravaged his high school career.

“I’m so happy he got the opportunity because I wasn’t sure that’s something he was gonna get because of the injury,” Wallace said. “If he can stay healthy, Midland’s getting one hell of a player.”

Denzel goes west

It took some wavering and soul searching, but Hiawatha (Kan.) athlete Denzel Chilcoat felt nothing but peace when he finally signed his letter of intent to play for Washburn next year.

“I was pretty happy about it,” said the 5-10, 185-pound athlete. “It’s not stressful anymore, I guess you can say, because you’re not getting a phone call every second or a tweet asking you where you’re going. I just know now.”

A lightning-fast, two-way player who split time between running back, receiver and defensive back at Hiawatha, Chilcoat originally committed to Missouri Western in early January, but assistant Eric Eisenbarth and the rest of the Washburn staff weren’t about to give up on a kid with a 4.48 40-yard dash time and an uncanny ability to elude would-be tacklers.

The Ichabods coaches convinced Chilcoat to visit the Topeka, Kan., campus on Jan. 11, and he decommitted from Western a couple days later. He never gave the Ichabods a hard verbal commitment, but by the time he woke up Wednesday, Chilcoat knew where he was heading.

“In the long run, Washburn can just help me more than Missouri Western,” Chilcoat said. “They’re both two good programs. I’m not gonna diss either one of them, but my visit to Washburn just made me think.

“It was more my fit, so I just decided to go with it.”

Chilcoat spent most of 2012 playing wide receiver, amassing 24 catches for 496 yards. He received more carries during the Redhawks’ final three games, including a Class 3A bi-district playoff victory against Nemaha Valley when he produced a school-record 425 yards on the ground.

Washburn expects Chilcoat to play running back with some slot duties to take advantage of his versatility.

Other signing day news and notes

No one from Bishop LeBlond signed Wednesday, but running back Austin Dawkins could soon. Wyoming coach Dave Christensen recently offered the 5-11, 192-pounder a preferred walk-on spot, and Northwest Missouri State and Benedictine have expressed interest as well, according to LeBlond coach Tony Dudik. Dawkins rushed for 1,598 yards on 249 carries (6.4 yards per carry, 133.2 yards per game) and 19 touchdowns in 2012. He also played defensive tackle for the Golden Eagles ... Former Central linebacker Malkaam Muhammad was listed as one of seven JUCO transfers in Wyoming’s official signing day release Wednesday. The younger brother of former Wyoming linebacker Ghaali Muhammad, Malkaam has three years of eligibility in Laramie after redshirting this past fall at Iowa Western Community College ... Day said he’s trying to recruit fellow Lafayette linebacker E’lon White to join him at Midland. White, considering the Warriors and Benedictine College, is one of a handful of Irish athletes still weighing options, coach Paul Woolard said. Lineman Austin Drennen could either walk on at Missouri Western or sign a partial scholarship with either Benedictine or Jewell, and fellow trench dweller Foster Brown is still considering some Division II schools after moving to Louisiana at semester to live with his mother. Running back Jurell Green‘s also trying to decide his college future; Division I Football Championship Subdivision Northern Iowa’s given him a look, as have a handful of local small colleges ... HAAC team Missouri Valley picked up letters of intent Wednesday from Hamilton teammates Matt LaPiana and Jalen Richman. LaPiana (6-0, 229), a first-team all-state offensive lineman, led the Class 1 champion Hornets with seven sacks and ranked fourth on the team in total tackles with 83. Richman (6-2, 177) caught 12 passes and scored two touchdowns for run-oriented Hamilton, which went 16-0 and won its third state title in four years ... Two other HAAC schools picked up local recruits as well: Plattsburg offensive lineman Jordon Filbeck inked with Avila, and Trenton running back/linebacker Dillon Triplet is scheduled to sign Thursday with Graceland ... Atchison linebacker Patrick Boos, a first-team All News-Press selection, signed with Garden City Community College.

Phil Ervin can be reached at phil.ervin@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPPhilErvin.

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