VAN — In the end, the Texan in Dalton Santos won out.
After flirting with Tennessee and Oklahoma State, Santos, ESPN’s No. 1-ranked inside-linebacker, decided to stay in the Lone Star State and sign with the University of Texas.
During a ceremony at Van High School, Santos, along with teammates Colby Rucker and Clay Hendon, signed to play football on Wednesday.
Santos picked the Longhorns, while Rucker is going to Southeastern Oklahoma State, while Hendon decided on East Texas Baptist University.
All three served as captains on the Vandal football team, Van head coach Jared Moffatt said as a large group of family, friends, teachers and media gathered for the reception in the VHS cafeteria. He noted all those present had a hand in helping the three players achieve their goal of going to college.
“Being an athlete is the part of the high school experience … some will go to the college, others to trade school, vocation school and into the workforce,” Moffatt said. “I’m very proud of these young men because they worked extremely hard in athletics and academics. Because of that and some natural ability they have an opportunity to play at the next level.”
For Santos, a 6-3, 257-pound linebacker, he grew up a Longhorn fan and a late recruiting pitch from Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz helped sway him from Tennessee orange to burnt orange.
“I’m extremely happy and grateful,” said Santos, taking time to thank his family, teachers and coaches. “Ultimately it was Texas because it is close to home instead of 12 hours away. That way my family can see me play and I have the opportunity to come home and be an influence in the community.”
When a spot opened up in Austin, Santos said he could not pass it up. He said that Tennessee was a great place, but “I’m from Texas. I grew up a Texas fan, and Texas is Texas.”
Texas signed four linebackers, but he is the one true inside linebacker.
Santos had offers from more than 20 BCS schools.
Attending the ceremony for Santos were his parents, Albert and Vista Santos, along with brother Wyatt and sister Grace. Also his grandparents were on hand.
Rucker, a wide receiver, was among several Texans signing with Southeastern, which is located in Durant, Okla. The school has an enrollment of about 4,000 and the Savage Storm play in the Great American Conference, an NCAA Division II league.
“I really liked the coaching staff there,” Rucker said of head coach Ray Richards and his staff. “Plus, it has a top three business school.”
Rucker also considered Midwestern State, Arkansas-Monticello and Harding.
His parents Denny and Wendy Rucker were on hand for the ceremony as well as his siblings Carson and Macy.
Hendon, who will play defensive end for ETBU, was happy to continue playing football for the American Southwest Conference school located in Marshall.
“They have a good program and I was happy to be able to go to school in Texas,” Hendon said.
He also considered Doane (Neb.) College and Southwestern (Kan.).
Attending the ceremony with Hendon were his parents, Curtis and Bonnie Hendon and his girlfriend, Taylor Harris.
He plans to major in business administration.