Tuesday, Feb 20, 2018
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The next step: SJJ's Gant embraces rigorous future

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    St. John's Jesuit linebacker Dallas Gant was The Blade's 2017 high school player of the year, and he will take his next step by signing with Ohio State on Wednesday.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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    Dallas Gant, pictured intercepting a Perrysburg pass in the end zone this season, did nearly everything for the Titans. Aside from his normal linebacker position, he also played tight end, receiver, and even as a Wildcat quarterback.

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Now is when Dallas Gant’s life as a football player goes through a factory reset.

On Tuesday morning, Gant was a high school student. By lunchtime, he was a member of the St. John’s Jesuit alumni club.

On Wednesday morning, everything will be new. Gant officially will become an Ohio State Buckeye on National Signing Day, he moves into his Columbus dorm room in eight days, and he’ll be navigating the world of 6 a.m. workouts followed by 8 a.m. classes in fewer than three weeks.

For Toledo’s highest-rated recruit, this is not a conclusion, but an opening act.

“It feels more like the beginning of something more than the end,” Gant said. “The end of high school was the end of football season for me and the players I’ve been playing with since the academy days. I felt that then.

“Right now, it feels like the beginning of a new journey.”

By choice, Gant’s next step will be a difficult one. St. John’s standout linebacker drew scholarship offers from at least one school in all of the Power Five conferences and Notre Dame, and he had his pick of nearly every major school in the Midwest and Pennsylvania.

On his 17th birthday in May, Gant chose Ohio State, fully understanding that nothing is guaranteed, especially for a linebacker.

The Buckeyes head into signing day expecting to sign the No. 1 recruiting class in college football, and coach Urban Meyer is all but assured to sign the Big Ten’s highest-rated class for the seventh straight time.

The reality is that very few players actually see the field for OSU, and four- and five-star talents go to Columbus each year and some of them never play.

That fact, at least for Gant, was not a detraction, but a selling point.

Gant was leaning toward Notre Dame at one point, and though the Irish also will sign a loaded top-10 class, they had a much clearer path to playing time for an outside linebacker like Gant.

In conversations with Meyer, however, Gant decided he wanted to go through the often ruthless process of starting at the very bottom of the depth chart for a title-contending program.

“That’s probably part of the reason I chose Ohio State — the competition,” Gant said. “What fun is it to go to a school where you’re the man right away like you already are?”

As highly recruited as Gant was, the four-star recruit is the 14th-ranked player in Ohio State’s class.

Though nothing is guaranteed, Gant said earning playing time at OSU was the most appealing of all his choices.

“When I’m in college two or three years in and I’m on my couch, I didn’t want to look on TV and be like, ‘What could have been with Ohio State?’” Gant said. “I feel like that’s the only place I could’ve gone and not said that about any other school.”

Gant did virtually everything for the Titans, for whom he played four years of varsity football. Aside from linebacker, he also played tight end, special teams, some receiver, and even served as a Wildcat quarterback.

He once told his mother as an eighth grader he wanted to start on varsity football as a freshman, which he did.

Jumping into a class full of future NFL talents is just the next step.

“Everything he's said he wanted to do, he's done,” said his mother, Rhonda Kimmons. “I really don't look at it in terms of being difficult, but just the next set of goals he set for himself. ... I think he's going to surprise everybody.”

The next two weeks will be full of goodbyes to friends, likely his last Christmas in Toledo for the foreseeable future, and then Gant jumps right into the next phase. He’ll travel to San Antonio on Dec. 31 to spend a week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, then fly directly to Columbus after the game and begin his first classes.

Gant spent the past few years dreaming about what college football would be like.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, it will be reality.

Wearing a red Buckeyes hat following his last exam at St. John’s, Gant smiled and said he’s prepared for what comes next.

“We have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, so obviously everybody we’re getting is the best player on their team without a doubt,” Gant said. “There’s going to be competition, and that’s just the bottom line.

“But I’m definitely ready for it.”

Contact Nicholas Piotrowicz at npiotrowicz@theblade.com, 419-724-6110 or on Twitter @NickPiotrowicz

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