CORINTH — On Wednesday morning, Lake Dallas defensive end Graysen Schantz sat at a long, crammed table draped with a green cloth.
He flashed a big smile as pictures were taken of several Falcons inking their names on paper, adding at least another year to their athletic careers.
Schantz signed a national letter of intent to attend Rice in the fall. Wednesday was the first day athletes in the class of 2013 officially could sign.
“It’s always been my dream to play college football, and to see it finally happen and sign, to see a lot of my teammates get to sign, it’s a good feeling,” Schantz said. “I’m excited. I’m glad to be an Owl. I can’t wait to get down there. It’s good stuff.”
Schantz said he turned down offers from Nevada, North Texas, Texas-San Antonio, UTEP, Colorado and Air Force to attend the private Houston school. The 6-3, 245-pound senior posted a Rice helmet online Jan. 19 to show his commitment.
The defensive end said he was drawn in by Rice head coach David Baliff and assistant coach Larry Hoefer, as well as the athletes and other people involved with the university.
He said he had planned a visit to Nevada after he committed to Rice.
“I ended up not going,” Schantz said. “I felt so right at Rice, I didn’t feel like I needed to go anywhere else.”
Last season, he posted 55 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 15 sacks and 33 quarterback hurries on Lake Dallas’ defensive line.
“It’s very hard to find defensive players that can impact the game like he does, with as many negative plays he causes with sacks and big plays like that. It’s hard to find those kinds of guys at any level,” Lake Dallas coach Michael Young said. “We were very lucky to have him here, and he helped us win a lot of football games.”
Young said Schantz was more of a diminutive middle linebacker as a freshman. As Schantz got older and taller, Young said, the defensive end was devoted to his routine in the weight room to keep up with his growing frame.
That frame shattered Saginaw Boswell’s offensive line in Lake Dallas’ 20-0 victory in the bi-district round of the 2012 Class 4A Division II playoffs.
Young said he rarely sent extra defenders to blitz Boswell’s quarterback. With Schantz and the rest of Lake Dallas’ defensive line disrupting Boswell’s attack, Young said, the Pioneers couldn’t throw or run the ball all game.
Lake Dallas defensive back Roman Mitchell, who signed with Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday, said he benefitted from having a defensive line pressuring quarterbacks into poor throws, increasing his opportunities for interceptions.
“[Schantz] was a huge key, along with everybody else,” Mitchell said. “He was a big part of the team. He’s the first line of defense, so he’s always made sure to take care of his job — and not only take care of it but do it well.”
Schantz said he has his sights set on breaking Rice’s single-season sack record in his sophomore or junior year. Brandon Green holds the record with 12 sacks in 2001.
Schantz’s high school coach says his work ethic in the weight room and the classroom will drive him to success with the Owls.
“The way he’ll work in the weight room, he’ll get it done,” Young said. “Part of it, too, is you’ve got to be good academically. You have to enjoy going to class. That’s a big part of it. That’s what keeps kids from making it, and that’s where he’ll be successful.”
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