Ownby, Loy ink their letters of intent
By Marcus Fitzsimmons | (email@example.com)
One Alcoa lineman committed early and stayed firm, the other Tornado had to wait to season’s end for an offer, but both got what they wanted Wednesday as Dalton Ownby and Thomas Loy signed their letters of intent on national signing day in the Alcoa High School Auditorium.
Ownby, the tight end built like an offensive tackle, is headed to Murfreesboro and Middle Tennessee while Loy is headed to Carson-Newman University to play for coach Ken Sparks in Jefferson City.
“I think it’s a good fit for them. A lot of it is about fits. Everyone wants to go to a Alabama, Tennessee or Georgia but there’s different fits and different level and I think these are great fits for both these kids,” Alcoa head coach Gary Rankin told The Daily Times. “There’s a lot of reasons people make their decisions, hopefully they’re both happy with them and will go and get a college degree.
“These are two good kids that have come through our program, both love Alcoa and have represented the program the way we want it to be.”
Wednesday isn’t the last commitments to college football for the current Tornado seniors. With several players weighing Division III offers — that have no athletic scholarship by NCAA rule — and others looking to walk on in addition to academic scholarships, Alcoa isn’t done.
“We’ll have a commitment day a little bit later, we have four or five that may be going Division III or some other situations,” Rankin said. “Today was for those guys that have a letter of intent to sign for an athletic scholarship.”
Ownby made his decision back in June giving his verbal commitment to coach Rock Stockstill and the Blue Raiders in the summer. And even though he listened to what other schools were saying, the highly regarded 6-foot, 3-inch of lineman never backed off his initial commitment.
“During the summer I considered Clemson, Kentucky, Tennessee before I really started going to camps,” Ownby said. “MTSU was my forerunner, the first day that coaches were allowed to call last year they called me, they always made me feel really at home. It’s not too far away, so my parents can be there on Saturdays and that’s important to me.”
Ownby has always been emphatic with what’s important to him, muscling up from 235 as a freshman at Alcoa looking to fill the shoes of current Kentucky tight end Tyler Robinson to the 285 pounds he carries easily on a frame that is still developing.
“Its been a huge change. I didn’t play much and just busted my tail over that year, came in the next year and started in spring practice and started every game since. I kept working to get stronger,” Ownby said. “That was a big deal, I came here as an eighth grader and no one really knew me. Just working for coach Rankin and coach Gossett they’re really helped me and guided me.”
When the colleges came calling, Ownby talked with some Alcoa alums, including Robinson, about the process and went with the choice of where he felt most comfortable and the one where he could carry a bit of the chip on his shoulder.
“I think at the rate MTSU is going we’ll be team that can compete with those bigger schools and I could be showing some of those coaches what they missed out on,” said Ownby, who will be joining Lenoir City tight end Lucas Hamilton, Volunteer high’s Conner Trent and Daniel Stephens from Duluth, Ga. as MTSU linemen for this recruiting class. “I’ve talked with Lucas, he and I have become pretty good friends through this whole process.”
And while Ownby has been a lineman’s lineman for Rankin’s run first approach, the veteran coach was just as impressed by Ownby’s conduct during the recruiting.
“It’s a good to see a guy that makes a commitment and stays with it, so many kids these days make a commitment and it doesn’t really mean anything,” Rankin said. “He’s a man of his word. He liked MTSU. found a connection there, committed and stayed true to it.”
Faith and focus
While his teammate was staying firm, just down the offensive front Loy was waiting on someone to really notice him.
Highly regarded the coaches on both sidelines all season, the Mr. Football finalist wasn’t drawing the college offers. It wasn’t until just after the regular season ended that he got the serious call he was looking for from the next level.
“Halloween night was the first time I talked with the coaches, we kept in contact and I went to visit and I liked it. They win and I like to win,” Loy said. “They called me with an offer when I was at the All-Star game in Cookeville. I was sitting in the hotel room with Mustafa (Anthony) a couple days before the game and they called me with it.
“It was a lot of relief, I was super happy to be offered. It was my dream since middle school to be one of the guys up here signing to play college football.”
“Thomas had a lot of people looking in the end but he decided Carson-Newman was the place he wanted to be,” Rankin said.
Loy will not be the only Mr. Football finalist from Alcoa playing for the Eagles. carson-Newman confirmed in its recruiting list Wednesday that former Tornado Derek Evans had transferred to C-N after a red-shirt season at Appalachian State. Evans is already enrolled and will be able to participate in spring practice.