Dallas Gant (24) has been among the leaders of the St. John’s Jesuit defense from his linebacker position. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
During Dallas Gant’s years as an elementary school student, school functions required some convincing on his mother’s part.
As a young Gant towered over his classmates, his mother, Rhonda Kimmons, had to assure the other parents a 12-year-old had not sneaked into the class — Dallas was the same age. He was just a lot bigger.
“I had to tell people, ‘He didn't get held back! He’s the same age as everyone else, I promise!’ ” Kimmons said, laughing. “He’s actually a little bit younger, but he’s always been a bigger kid.”
Almost every major college football program in the Midwest has noticed.
Gant, a junior at St. John’s Jesuit, is one of the top outside linebacker prospects in the country. He has scholarship offers from schools in four of the five major conferences, and a total of 16 Division I offers ranging from traditional football powers to prolific private universities.
This week alone, Ohio State and Penn State paid visits to St. John’s to speak with Gant, and he had plans for a weekend trip to Wisconsin. All three schools have offered Gant, who checked in at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds this week, his heaviest yet.
Gant is ranked as a four-star recruit by 247Sports, the sixth overall outside linebacker in his class, and the fourth-ranked player in Ohio.
The son of an attorney and a principal, Gant also owns a 3.7 grade-point average, making him especially appealing to schools like Notre Dame, Duke, and Boston College, all of which have offered scholarships.
He began taking high school math classes as a seventh grader in the St. John’s Academy, then started high school science classes in eighth grade. As a junior this year, Gant is taking AP Calculus, which typically is offered to advanced seniors at St. John’s.
Kimmons, the principal at Springfield High School, said the academic part of the decision “is hugely important to us.”
Although he is not yet sure what he will pick for a major, Gant said individual academic programs will play a key part of his decision.
“Academics are a big part of everything, but I want to figure out what I’m going to study first, and then we’ll see what school fits that best,” Gant said. “Academics are critical part of it, and mom’s always bugging me about the academics.”
Gant said he would like to make a commitment before his senior season, but he intends to make all of his official visits as a senior. The NCAA allows a prospective football player five official visits.
Before then, almost every major football program within a five-hour drive will make a pitch, including Toledo and Bowling Green, which also have offered Gant.
Kimmons said any of the 16 suitors could be the right choice.
“Any one of those schools would be a great place to send my son, so finding the right fit for him is overwhelming,” Kimmons said. “We’re running into such wonderful people and making such good connections with these position coaches and head coaches.”
Gant has visited Notre Dame more than any other school and likes what it has to offer. Michigan State build its identity on defense; Penn State is coming off a Big Ten title; and Cincinnati just hired Luke Fickell, who recruited Gant as an assistant at Ohio State.
The Buckeyes themselves would love to keep Gant in his home state.
“I like them a lot,” Gant said. “I loved coach Fickell when he was there, and I got to meet coach [Bill] Davis, the new linebackers coach, a couple days ago, and he’s a great guy. It’s great program, obviously.”
Kimmons said the family has developed a good connection with the OSU coaching staff.
“I love those guys,” Kimmons said. “It’s one of the top programs. They’re just great.”
Kimmons said she would love to have her son within driving distance, but she wants him to be happy more than she wants him to be close to home.
For now, Gant is trying navigate through all the interest from colleges with an open mind. The decision will arrive either way, and Gant would like his choice to be the best one possible.
“I’ve been coached by pretty good collegiate coaches from the camps I’ve gone to and I’ve gotten to know a lot of them, and they’re all great guys,” Gant said. “I just have to find what will fit me best.”
Dallas Gant, shown with classmates in a 2009 photo when he was 9 years old, has always been bigger than most of his peers. Now his size is among the factors that have made him coveted by top college football programs. THE BLADE