Photo by Brian Ray
Coaches, parents and siblings stand by as Steamboat Springs High School senior Ben DeLine, center, signs his letter of intent to play football for Colorado State University this fall.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Steamboat Springs There was always one school that hovered above the rest.
It didn't matter if Southern California, Notre Dame or Louisiana State would have offered. Ben DeLine already had his mind made up.
So, when DeLine took a break from his fencing business this summer and saw he had a phone message from former Colorado State University coach Sonny Lubick, DeLine's dream of playing football for the Rams became a reality.
Wednesday, on national signing day, DeLine turned his verbal pledge into a written commitment, signing his national letter of intent to play football at Colorado State.
"I've wanted to go there ever since I was little," said DeLine, who also received interest from California and Louisville, among others. "As soon as we started talking to CSU, I knew that's where I wanted to go. As soon as I knew that was a possibility, that was where I wanted to go. Sure, there were schools I would have gone to, but CSU was my first choice."
DeLine, a two-time first-team All-State place kicker in high school, was destined to play at CSU.
Ben's father, Steve, was a kicker for CSU in the mid-1980s. He remains second in career field goals made (42) and has the second-longest field goal in school history (60 yards). Ben's parents met and married while at CSU, and he was born the day after the couple attended a CSU game.
Steve, who has helped Ben with his form since the Steamboat Springs senior was little, said he always knew there was a possibility Ben could kick at the collegiate level.
"He's always been tough-minded, confident," Steve said. "That's the biggest thing. It wasn't about him going out and just having a strong leg. What I liked about him - he was confident. I wouldn't have let him be a kicker if he was tentative in going out there. That just doesn't work. When he started kicking, he just had such a strong leg that I just knew that there was a possibility here."
Ben's ability wasn't lost on Colorado State safeties and special teams coach Larry Lewis. Lewis said Ben is the type of player Colorado State wants to come to Fort Collins.
"He's got a strong leg, and he can boom it," Lewis said. "He's got a competitive nature. He'll look you in the eye and shake your hand. Those are what you look for in college football."
DeLine said he'd like to red shirt next year to get acclimated to college and focus on his school work - he plans to double major in agriculture business and animal science.
The Rams have one kicker on the roster in senior Jason Smith, opening up the job for DeLine as early as 2009.
"I think the key thing he brings is his mental toughness. That's critical for any kicker," Steamboat football coach Aaron Finch said. "He's getting stronger, and he's a focused young man. He's got a great work ethic, he's a great student and he's in a good position."
Ben said he most likely will head to Fort Collins at the end of July or the beginning of August. In the meantime, he'll work on staying in shape and begin kicking with Steve when the snow starts to melt.
Either way, Wednesday's signing concluded an 18-year vision for Ben and his family.
"Dreams," Steve said, "really do come true."