The narrow strip of utter chaos known as the line of scrimmage is familiar territory for Edinburgh Community High School senior Dakota Sneed.
Not just one side, but both.
Like so many Lancers football players past and present, the 6-foot-3, 270-pound center/defensive end has made a career of helping move an offense downfield one minute and then attempting to stop one the next.
“I like playing both sides. I’ve been doing it since my sophomore year, and it’s really not as tough as people think,” said Sneed, who carved out varsity minutes as a freshman as Edinburgh’s left tackle in 2010. “But I still think I need to get better in my explosiveness.”
Sneed at this time is drawing interest from no less than eight college programs (Ball State, Illinois State, Harvard, Bucknell, Indianapolis, Rose-Hulman, Hanover and Manchester). The fact he is No. 1 in his class academically with a 4.39 grade-point average only makes him that much more of a desirable prospect.
It’s here Gary and Danielle Sneed’s only child sings the praises of his mother.
“My mom has been a big influence on me,” Sneed said. “She’s always pushed me to be the best and made me do my homework right after getting home from school. Now it’s all second nature to me.”
Danielle traveled with Dakota last month as he participated in football camps hosted by Bowling Green, Ball State, Indianapolis, Notre Dame and Michigan State. He’s made it a point to frequent the camp circuit since the summer bridging his freshman and sophomore school years.
“I’ve learned that just because I’m not as big as the average Division I athlete, I can still compete with a lot of them,” said Sneed, who bench-presses as much as 275 pounds and squats 525. “When I first started going to camps there was a little bit of intimidation, but not now.”
The Lancers open their upcoming season Aug. 23 at Manual before hosting North Decatur and Trinity Lutheran. Edinburgh’s four victories a year ago matched the 1995 squad’s total as the most in the past 20 years for a program responsible for a 3-76 record between 2002-09.
Enter coach Bill Unsworth, whose first three seasons leading the Lancers represent gradual progress for the program: One win in 2010, three the following season and four a year ago. Getting to five will be a challenge given the number of key players who graduated from the 2012 Lancers, though Sneed thinks a successful season is still a distinct possibility.
“We have a lot of big shoes to fill, but I feel confident in the people we have,” he said.
Himself, for example. Sneed is an offensive player who out of need moonlights as a defensive end. Most importantly, he thoroughly enjoys the unique set of challenges brought forth by starting at both positions.
“Dakota is very athletic for a big guy. He can pull well, has good body control and is incredibly smart. He’s the only guy on offense guaranteed to touch the football on every play. He picks up assignments and makes adjustments very well,” Unsworth said.
“And the thing about Dakota is he’s the nicest kid in the world, but you get him on a football field and he has a mean streak. He goes out looking for contact.”
For someone playing both ways, there will be no shortage of worthy targets.