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Published: Thursday, 9/10/2009

Sidelines: AW tackle Donnal comfortable in his role

Anthony Wayne's Andrew Donnal (76), a 6-foot-7, 280-pound lineman, blocksBrandon Hunt of Rogers to clear the way for running back Matt Green. Anthony Wayne's Andrew Donnal (76), a 6-foot-7, 280-pound lineman, blocksBrandon Hunt of Rogers to clear the way for running back Matt Green.
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An unassuming offensive lineman, Andrew Donnal grappled at times with the limelight that accompanied big-time college recruiting.

But the all-encompassing process took the Anthony Wayne senior to some of the best venues in the sport last fall. It also has given the humble tackle a chance to fulfill his dream of playing Big Ten football before tens of thousands of fans.

Donnal's 6-foot-7, 280-pound frame produced a whirlwind of phone calls, emails and letters from coaches from the most prestigious programs from across the country for nearly two years. Ultimately Donnal verbally committed to play at the University of Iowa — a hotbed for developing NFL linemen — prior to his senior season.

Donnal said he had mixed emotions on the process, especially the opinions and chatter on internet recruiting Web sites.

“I never thought any of this would happen,” Donnal said. “I've always just had fun playing. It just evolved. Now I'm blessed to get this opportunity. It just kind of happened.”

While Donnal said he just likes to “go out there and play,” scouts were drawn not only to his size but also his athleticism.

“I've always liked the line,” Donnal said. “There's a humbleness to it. I was never in to being the center of attention. I just like doing my part. I'm completely content on the line. I'm not into scoring touchdowns.”

Andrew Donnal, who was an All-NLL offensive tackle last season, has verbally committed to play at Iowa.
Andrew Donnal, who was an All-NLL offensive tackle last season, has verbally committed to play at Iowa.
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But Anthony Wayne coach Craig Smith estimated that two to three coaches from major Division I programs came to AW every day last spring to meet with Donnal.

“We'd sit and talk and watch highlight tapes. Anthony Wayne high school was a busy place. It was on a large scope,” Smith said. “He's got the size they're looking for. The special thing with Andrew is that he has great agility and mobility for someone that size.”

Donnal said after starting on the varsity as a sophomore, he started receiving letters.

“I was hearing from a lot of coaches. That was when I first got the idea football at the next level would be a possibility. It just kept elevating,” Donnal said.

Donnal said he remembered being called down to the office one day.

“They had two letters for me. One was from Indiana and the other was from Notre Dame,” he said. “I just remember thinking it was so cool to get those letters.”

Soon tickets arrived for prime seats to games between Ohio State and Penn State, Michigan State and Notre Dame, Penn State and Iowa, and Wisconsin and Ohio State.

“We made lot of visits. We basically went everywhere in the Big Ten,” Donnal said. “I got to see a lot of good football. It was really cool. We had great seats.”

He said before games he would get to be on the field to watch his position group warm up and would have access to the locker room after games. He said he paid particular attention to what the players had to say.

“No one knows it better than players themselves,” Donnal said. “I'd ask them about the coach and what the practices were like. And what the routine was. That was a big help.”

Donnal, who was named All-Northern Lakes League first team as an offensive tackle last year, also plays on the defensive line. He said he figured he would wait until after his senior year to make a decision. He said the whole recruiting process was overwhelming at times.

“It is wearing. It's tiresome,” he said. “It's not just the coaches. It's the internet with all the recruiting Web sites. They'd call every day. That got pretty nuts. Once I committed, that all stopped.”

Donnal said he grew up an Ohio State fan and the Buckeyes showed interest but never officially offered a scholarship. He said OSU may have offered him one this fall.

“But I just knew Iowa was the one. I never had a question. I did not feel a need to wait,” he said.

Donnal received a four-star rating and is ranked as the country's No. 17 lineman by Rivals.com. He also is rated the sixth best senior in Ohio.

Donnal also said many of the aspects of recruiting were “awesome.”

“To have all these people that I don't even know coming up congratulating me was great,” he said.

Smith said Donnal had to sort through more than 30 offers.

“He's been very down to earth through the whole process,” Smith said. “Talking to him you'd never know he's a highly recruited athlete. He has a good head on his shoulders.

“He's also a real student of the game. He likes to run block and that's a big part of what we do [Wing-T]. And that's what they like to do at Iowa.”

Donnal said he felt a connection with Iowa because the Hawkeyes were the second school to offer after Stanford and stayed in close contact. He took four visits to Iowa.

“I liked the campus. It reminded me of home. It's not like a big city, like Columbus. It's more rural,” he said. “I developed a good relationship with the coaches. I got a feel for who they were. They want me to be a mobile lineman. They like me because I'm athletic and I can run.”

Donnal said he worked with a personal trainer over the summer to become more explosive. He said he increased his bench press to 315 pounds, his dead lift to 575 and squat to 420.

The Monclova resident also plays center on the Generals' basketball team and throws the shot put and discus for the track team.

“I've played basketball my entire life. That has helped my footwork and athleticism,” he said.

Donnal said his current focus is on helping AW win its first Northern Lakes League title since 1988.

“I think we have a great shot at getting the NLL title,” Donnal said. “The NLL is so balanced. We can't take any team for granted. We just have to keep working hard.”

Contact Mark Monroe at:mmonroe@theblade.comor 419-724-6354.

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