If actions were words, Alex Van Dyke would be one of the big talkers on the Franklin Community High School football team.
Van Dyke, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior preparing to begin his third season as a starting defensive end for the Grizzly Cubs, is much more comfortable leading by example.
If that means lining up at right tackle on offense during games, so be it.
During his junior season, Van Dyke emerged as the rare big-school (Class 5A) player called on to positively influence his squad’s performance on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
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“It’s hard in actual games preparing for both sides, but I think I’ll look back and be glad I did it,” Van Dyke said. “It helps the team, and, ultimately, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Fourth-year Franklin coach Adam Reese would prefer to have Van Dyke play exclusively on defense after recording 47 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack last season.
It’s a defense poised to return seven starters, including senior tackle Jacob Lamping, junior end Nate Sellers and three-quarters of the secondary (seniors Alex Blackwell and Lane Voris with junior Ranger Soots).
However, the coach expressed to Van Dyke earlier this week that he again might be needed to help the Cubs’ flexbone triple-option offense reach its potential.
Franklin averaged only 238.6 yards of total offense a year ago, and six of Reese’s starters graduated from that unit for a team that finished with a record of 1-9.
“I am trying all I can to not play him on both sides. Last year we needed him, and he probably ended up being the best offensive lineman we had,” Reese said. “That’s the great thing about Alex. He is okay with it. He just looks at me and says, ‘Yeah, OK. Whatever’.
“He loves football. He wants to be on the field. That’s just the type of kid Alex is. Super unselfish.”
Years of wear on Van Dyke’s shoulder, largely the result of playing baseball since he was 5 years old, forced him to have surgery performed on his right labrum last New Year’s Eve.
As a result, Van Dyke, a pitcher/outfielder for the Grizzly Cubs in the spring, saw only limited action.
Reese said he admires the way Van Dyke gutted through last football season knowing full well surgery would likely be required.
“Alex is a quiet kid. He’s not going to be the guy who’s going to get in somebody’s face and all that kind of stuff, which is fine. We talk to our kids all the time about there being several kinds of leadership, and you don’t always have to be a vocal leader,” Reese said.
“What he needs to do is come out and be the hardest-working kid we have and to produce on the field. Over the last two or three years of watching Alex grow up, I have no doubt that he’ll do those things.”
Now at full strength, Van Dyke, who bench-presses 265 pounds and is capable of squatting 335, looks forward to hitting again, whether it’s on the gridiron in a few weeks or after settling into a batter’s box next spring.
“We have most of our defensive line back. I like to hit someone every single play,” Van Dyke said. “I’ve always played on the line or been around the line. I played linebacker in middle school, but in high school I’ve always been on the line.
“The perfect (football) season would be to win a sectional for the first time in a long time (1984). I think that would be fun for my team and just doing it with the kids I grew up playing football with.”
THE VAN DYKE FILE
Name: Alex Van Dyke
Family: Parents, Tyler and Nancy; brothers Ben, 16, and Calvin, 5
Favorite TV show: “SpongeBob SquarePants”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”
Favorite athlete: Andrew Luck
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts