SOLON, Iowa – The three-hour practice concluded and Coach Kevin Miller blew his whistle. Members of the Solon High football team knew what time it was.
The Spartans lined up on the home sideline. Miller sounded his whistle again. Jacob Coons bursted into the front of the pack during the conditioning drill.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder chewed up ground with his long strides. Time and time again, he was among the first ones crossing the finish line. A top player, there was no resting on his laurels.
"It’s nice to have a kid like Jacob on your football team because he’s a leader and just makes people around him better," Miller says.
Dan Coons, Jacob’s father, assists Miller, who’s known his standout performer since he was five.
"They’ve been a part of our family for a long time," Miller said. "Just to see his growth as a young man and an athlete is very gratifying personally and professionally. He is a great kid that plays with great passion and great heart."
Coons, a junior tight end/linebacker, will be playing the game in college. He holds scholarship offers from Iowa and Iowa State after wowing the in-state schools at camps this summer.
Thankfully for Miller, has evidenced by Coons’ determination during conditioning, the fame hasn’t gone to his head.
"I think he went to the camps and had great camps. He’s a big-framed athlete that possesses various skills sets. Iowa recognized that as did Iowa State. He’s a very grounded individual to begin with that has a high level of character so when you have individuals like that, you don’t get too concerned," the coach said.
The modest Coons appreciates the recruiting attention. He also compartmenalizes into the back of his mind.
"I’m just looking at it as high school comes first. I’m in high school right now. I’m just kind of worried about our team and how we can compete every day. I’ll worry about college in the next year, probably, but I’m more worried about high school first," he said.
Coons is working to improve on a sophomore season that saw him catch 17 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns to go with 15 tackles on defense for 9-2 Solon.
"I’m just going to see where things are (down the road in recruiting) because God will take care of it and I won’t really focus on it right now," he said.
This summer, Coons’ desire to improve crossed paths with his future as a college player. In addition to Iowa and Iowa State, he camped with Missouri and Minnesota.
"(The Missouri) campus was really nice. The Iowa one is terrific and the Iowa State one also is really good. Minnesota’s was really good, too. Northern, it’s going to be pretty cold up there. We’re just looking at all the options right now," he said.
While he’s at camps or attending junior days, Coons uses the time to learn about what’s important to him when he eventually does choose a school.
"I like to see the coach-and-player relationships. I try and get ahold of the players and ask if the coaches are for real. Are they phonies? Will they give it their all just like you give it your all? That’s what I look at mostly on the recruiting visits," he said.
Coons said he’s been building relationships with staffs at the colleges showing him interest. He advanced his rapport with the Hawkeyes at the end of July during their recruiting tailgate. He also enjoyed meeting other prospects.
"You sort of just talk to the other recruits, learn a little bit about their lives and how they go about things and sort of figure out your similarities and differences. You just get to build those life-long relationships with other people," he said.
Miller isn’t surprised that Coons is approaching recruiting deliberately and giving it it’s time and place.
"That’s just the type of individual he is. He’s not going to get too caught up in that process," the coach said.
Coons said the opportunities came his way without him striving for them. That’s why he’s decided to stay on that path.
"It sort of just happened. I was just playing and giving my all every play and the scholarships just sort of came. I wasn’t really worried about them at all," he said.
Coons said he prefers playing defense to offense because of the intensity and energy on that side of the ball. His ability to line up all over the field is why he intrigues scouts, his coach said.
"Honestly, he could play tackle but he’s playing split receiver for us. He can play tight end. He can play H(back). On the defensive side, he can play defensive end. He can play linebacker. He can play with his hand down. He can play in space," Miller said.
"I think it’s his versatility along with his size and his ability to run and change directions that make him so marketable as a football player."