13 Months Later

13 months.

I had to go back and look it up.  13 months ago Levi Jungling committed to attend Dordt College and join the Defender football program.

Levi was someone I’d watched for close to four years up to that point.  I still remembered him playing basketball as a baby-faced freshman in high school at a holiday high school basketball classic Dordt hosted.

I watched with interest as he and David Kacmarynski piled up passing and receiving yards and touchdowns for Pella Christian.

I kept asking, “Do we have a chance to get him?” and both our basketball and football coaches felt we did and they both worked to show Levi Dordt was a viable option.

In mid January 2017 he committed to attend Dordt and join the football program.

I sat down with him about three weeks ago and asked him if he’d be willing to put down on paper what the recruiting process was like.  What the path to Dordt looked like, and now, a year later, what that time looks like in the rear view mirror.

It’s a risky thing to expose your thoughts as an 18 or 19 year old.  Heck, it’s sometimes tough for a 47 year old to do it. 

I’m glad Levi agreed to the assignment.

mbyk 

 

I like to compare the recruiting process to being the main man on the bachelor. Everyone is competing for your attention, you’re in over your head with too many relationships, and ultimately, everybody acts for an audience. All throughout my senior year of high school I was bombarded with recruitment. I would be pulled out of class multiple times a day to talk to yet another coach. My phone would buzz with texts about the upcoming game on Friday night. The school secretary started a special recycle bin to store all of the generic recruiting letters that arrived at the door.

I don’t say this to make myself seem like a big deal, almost every high school athlete with aspirations of playing college athletics has to take part in the crazy game called recruiting. The thing about all the hoopla was, everybody said the same thing. As a senior just trying to enjoy his last year in high school, I was overwhelmed. Every program claimed to have the best facilities. Every coach did the best job at developing players. Every team had the best jerseys. Every school had the best major for me. Every program was headed in the right direction. Everyone said exactly what I wanted to hear, and let me tell you, I was one confused young man.

I was overwhelmed. Every program claimed to have the best facilities. Every coach did the best job at developing players. Every team had the best jerseys. Every school had the best major for me. Every program was headed in the right direction. Everyone said exactly what I wanted to hear, and let me tell you, I was one confused young man.

The only thing I was sure of in life is that I WAS NOT, under any circumstances, going to play football at Dordt College. I was determined not to be another name in a long list of Pella Christian students in Sioux Center. My big plan was to play somewhere that stood out. A place where 70,000 fans would pack the stands on gameday. Somewhere that would get me a lot of likes on Twitter and Instagram when I announced my decision. It was so easy to buy into the lies that recruitment fed to me and what society told me to look for in a college.

I had it all planned out.

The only thing I was sure of in life is that I WAS NOT, under any circumstances, going to play football at Dordt College.

But when we make plans, God smiles to Himself at how shallow they are. He had something bigger in store for me than twitter fame.

His plan looked a lot different and better than mine, and it only took a few conversations with Coach Penner to make me realize it. From the second I heard the way coach talked about his players, I knew. This program is special. There is a culture on that team unlike anything I have seen before. Coach Penner was genuine. For everything he told me was going to happen to Dordt football, he had tangible milestones in place to reach the ultimate goal.

Genuine honesty is a rare thing in college football, and Dordt has it. God opened my eyes to what matters and led me right where I needed to be.

The transition from a recruited high school athlete to a college football player was tricky to navigate at times.

In the blink of an eye, I had to go from a mighty high school senior to a lowly freshmen trying to find his place on campus.

In the blink of an eye, I had to go from a mighty high school senior to a lowly freshmen trying to find his place on campus. My goal from the start was to stay quiet and stay comfortable. Unfortunately, that is not how Dordt football operates. From the second I stepped on campus, I was challenged to get outside my comfort zone physically, spiritually, and emotionally. You don’t grow by being comfortable. I can honestly say that in the few short months I have been a part of Dordt football, I have grown more as a man and in my faith than any other point in my life.

Another big part of adjusting to college football is transitioning into being part of a new team. Starting with mini camp, I had one month to learn to trust 130 guys I had just met. To me, this was going to be a daunting task. I had never been more wrong about anything in my life. It amazed me how quickly myself, and all the other freshmen were accepted into the family. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to get into meaningful conversations with new teammates, and how quickly that build strong bonds.

I learned what it means to build trust from the ground up.

Trust takes action.

Trust takes action.

It was hard for me not to trust my new brothers when I saw my senior leaders physically exhausting themselves while encouraging people during the conditioning test.

It was hard for me not to trust when I saw guys doing pull ups until they’re hands bled.

It was hard for me not to trust when I knew anybody in that locker room would do anything for me and I would do the same for them.

Trust is built on genuine love, and this team had it.

Trust is built on genuine love, and this team had it.

Becoming part of the Dordt football team was easy. In one season, I have already build friendships that I know will last a lifetime. The relationships on this team go much further than the football field, and that is why the transition here was a smooth one.

My journey to Dordt college was an unexpected one. If you would have told me last year at this time that I would be at Dordt, I would have laughed. Despite all my resisting, God brought me exactly where I need to be.

Dordt college and its football team is special. Sometimes, the most beautiful things in life are hiding in places we don’t think we want to go.

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