Two years ago, Sam McLeran was a backup tight end at West High.
On Friday, the second-team all-state left tackle gave his verbal commitment to play football at Northern Iowa.
“Sam’s a great story,” West coach Brian Sauser said. “He’s worked his butt off. His goal was to be all-conference and get a chance to play in college.”
As a junior, McLeran was fullback and linebacker when Sauser came to McLeran and asked him to try the offensive line.
“I thought I’ll give this a shot,” McLeran said. “Most of the time, I pulled, and got out in front of (Charles) Rogers. … That carried over to this year.”
McLeran got big — real big — in the offseason and was put out at left tackle at 6-foot-3, 275 pounds. He had been 195 pounds as a sophomore and 220 as a junior.
“That helps to move people when they don’t want to be moved,” McLeran said of the extra size.
“I talk to our kids all the time,” Sauser said. “You never know if you continue to work hard, then get a growth spurt.”
McLeran attended Northern Iowa’s junior day but really started turning heads this fall as the o-line anchor of the Mississippi Valley Conference’s top rushing attack.
Schools like the way McLeran attacked, taking defenders down field or to the turf.
“Sam has some nastiness in him,” Sauser said. “He wants to get out there and hit. I like seeing him 20 yards down the field, putting guys into the sidelines.”
McLeran got offers from UNI, Western Illinois and South Dakota and received interest from Iowa State and Iowa.
He decided on UNI on Friday morning after a call from coach Mark Farley on Thursday night.
“They are looking for guys that are going to scrap,” McLeran said. “I’ll be a guy that’ll not back down from anything. Have an edge. Get nasty down in there.”
Sauser said McLeran added size but kept his quick feet.
“A couple college coaches are like, how much does this kid really weigh?” Sauser said. “He got a nice offer from UNI. It was a lot for them to give. He couldn’t be happier.”