National Signing Day is now something of a spectacle with certain high school football players playing their version of the shell game with a small sampling of hats.
But last Wednesday, as crowds buzzed and and fax machines hummed, one of the best kickers Greenwood Community High School has produced in 56 years of fielding football teams went about his day just like any other.
“It’s kind of depressing. You see everything on TV with guys picking hats,” said senior Griffin Oakes, who converted 8 of 12 field goals and was good on 51 of 53 extra-point kicks this past season for a 9-2 Woodmen squad. “But I have a little bit more to prove now.”
Oakes with shoulder chip squarely in place will be doing so as a preferred walk-on for the Indiana Hoosiers.
Smaller collegiate programs, including the University of Indianapolis, showed interest in the 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior to the point of offering partial scholarships. Major Division-I’s such as Minnesota and Miami (FL) left the door open for Oakes, an outstanding student with a 3.75 grade-point average, to enroll at their university and try making the team as a walk-on.
In the end, being a Hoosier made the most sense.
Oakes had established a solid correspondence with former IU assistant coach Mark Hagen. But when Hagen left in late January to become linebackers coach at Texas A&M, the kicker understandably became concerned.
Hagen, however, was professional enough to leave all information pertaining to Oakes to remaining members of head coach Kevin Wilson’s staff. The kicker’s plan is to be in Bloomington the Monday following his high school commencement to begin working out and taking summer classes.
“They don’t expect me, but I figured it might help my cause to be down there and be seen,” said Oakes. “Now that it’s over I can take a breath.”
For a time it appeared as though Minnesota would be Oakes’ eventual landing spot. Then on Christmas Eve the Golden Gophers received a verbal commitment from 6-5, 270-pound kicker Ryan Santoso out of Pace, Fla.
“It was kind of like a slap in the face,” Oakes said. “You get all excited because they’re sending you letters every three or four days since the start of my senior year.”
With Hoosiers’ kicker Mitch Ewald about to enter his senior season, Oakes realizes his best opportunity for playing time is likely the 2014 season and beyond.
Oakes is leaning toward majoring in pre-dentistry, the irony here being that the recruiting process occasionally compared to pulling teeth is now over.