Somewhere among the approximately 2,500 fans at Franklin College’s Faught Stadium on Saturday will be Dakota Sneed’s support system.
Sneed’s parents, Gary and Danielle, will be present along with friends and assorted other family members to watch the valedictorian from Edinburgh Community High School’s Class of 2014 make snap decisions.
The redshirt junior is the starting center for the Butler football team (0-1), which travels to Franklin College (0-1) for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
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Sneed would prefer to have been able to benefit from experience gained in the Bulldogs’ 59-14 victory against the Grizzlies last season at Butler Bowl, but he can’t. He broke his right fibula during practice a few days before the game.
“We were doing a scout exchange and one of the young guys fell on my leg as I was blocking someone else,” Sneed said. “He felt so bad, but I wasn’t mad at him. He’s a young player who was playing hard.”
It was the first significant injury since Sneed began playing organized football in the first grade.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pound lineman required surgery at OrthoIndy in Indianapolis. Afterward, he wore a cast extending from just below his knee to his foot for nine weeks and then a walking boot for another six weeks.
In December, a second surgery was performed to remove two pins from Sneed’s leg. He wasn’t able to engage in contact drills during spring football, but he was medically cleared to do so in mid-May.
“I feel great now. I’m ready to go,” said Sneed, who anchored Butler’s line in its season-opening 45-0 loss at Illinois State on Saturday. “I definitely look forward to that (Franklin) game. My family and all my friends have watched me play football since I was a little kid.”
A lot of sports, actually.
Sneed graduated from Edinburgh with 11 varsity letters. A two-way player for the Lancers in football who recorded 84 tackles as a defensive end his senior season, he was selected to play in the annual Indiana North-South All-Star Game at North Central High School.
That was three years and 25 pounds ago.
Sneed, who redshirted as a Butler freshman to better prepare for the rigors of football at the collegiate level, carries a 3.5 grade-point average as a science technology and society major at Butler.
Returning from injury made Sneed somewhat tentative at first.
“It was kind of new. I had never come off an injury before, so I was pretty timid,” he said. “The day finally came where, a couple weeks later, I was good to go.”
Bulldogs offensive line coach Kyle Connor said a good offense starts with a good center. In Sneed, a player who incorporates intellect with strength and gridiron instincts, Butler has exactly that.
“Dakota is doing a great job,” Connor said. “He is very smart and, being our center, he makes all the blocking calls for us. We’re just glad to have him.”