You know them when you see them.
The athletes who stand out with explosive plays and instinctual moves, consistently a step ahead of their opponents.
Physical talents that make fans in the bleachers say, “Wow.”
Raw power that drops the jaws of teammates in the weight room or on the practice field.
Fox Sports writer Bruce Feldman has popularized the annual search of “the freakiest athletes in college football.”
On the eve of the final regular-season game and a week before Beggar’s Night, the Register produced a list of the top 10 “freaks” in central Iowa prep football.
Valley’s Dominique Dafney has 46 catches for 657 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Without ranking and in alphabetical order …
Kyle Boulanger, Waukee
On a state contender loaded with gigantic athletes, the 5-foot-11 senior linebacker stands out with his production and power. Boulanger hit Waukee’s immaculate weight room hard after finishing third on the team in tackles last season. He’s now easily the team leader at 54 stops, likely thanks to his 300-plus pound cleans.
Ryan Boyle, Dowling Catholic
The reigning Gatorade player of the year seems an obvious selection, but Dowling’s quarterback stands out from an incredibly deep supporting cast because of his off-field work. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Boyle bench-presses 360 and squats 525. Add in a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and arm strength that has the Hawkeyes salivating, and Boyle is the star on a team full of them.
Noah Clayberg, Pella
Coach Jay McKinstrey said his junior quarterback and strong safety was electronically timed at 1.53 seconds in his 10-yard split last spring, which is considered more indicative of speed burst than the 40. That’s an NFL-caliber sprint from a 5-foot-11 phenom that has put up absurd numbers this season. Clayberg has completed 67 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and rushed for 12.1 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns.
Dominique Dafney, Valley
Good luck tackling Valley’s top target. After catching 33 passes for 10 touchdowns last season, Dafney got bigger and faster in the offseason — when he was a key defensive stopper for Valley’s state runner-up basketball team — and is now tearing up opposing secondaries. With lightning feet at over 200 pounds, the senior receiver has 46 catches for nine touchdowns this season and most of his 657 yards have come after the catch.
TJ Hockenson, Chariton
Even basketball fans were stunned by the junior’s eye-popping football stats this fall. Hockenson, a 6-6 receiver, made headlines by following up a six-touchdown game on Sept. 12 with a 16-reception, 282-yard game the next week. He was unfair in hoops too, averaging 19.4 points and 12.3 rebounds for Chariton’s first state tournament team since 1972.
Bryce Kemp, Coll.-Maxwell/Baxter
Position doesn’t matter when you’re open. A hurdles and long jump medalist at state track, Kemp routinely blows by his Class 2-A opponents at 6-5 and 210 pounds. Coach Rob Luther puts the ball in the senior’s hands however he can and for good reason: Kemp has passing, rushing, receiving and interception touchdowns for the undefeated Raiders. He was also the basketball team’s top scorer, rebounder and shot blocker.
Isaiah Kramme, Ankeny Centennial
Among the athletes in the Drake Stadium blocks, ready to determine the fastest sprinter in the state, was the Jaguars’ senior quarterback. Kramme kept running from the Class 4-A 100-meter finals last May to the gridiron this fall, rushing for 995 yards and 12 touchdowns with his sub-4.5 speed. At 6-3, he can stand in the pocket and throw, but is the dynamic decision-maker of the run-heavy Pezzetti offense.
Deion Mikesell, Southeast Polk
The reaction is a wince. From field level or the top row of the bleachers, Mikesell’s hits cause it, bringing aggressiveness to a 220-pound frame with 4.6-speed. Southeast Polk’s senior linebacker is one of the hardest hitters in the state and the top tackler on an imposing defense. Mikesell placed fifth at 195 pounds in last season’s state wrestling tournament, but is more than just a mauler; he has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season.
Jared Seay, Johnston
Clearing 6-10 last spring made Seay the best high jumper in Johnston history. Also running in the 200 meters and 4×100 meter finals made coach Brian Woodley figure out more ways to use the senior’s extra gear. Seay can pop up in the backfield or out wide on any given play, letting the Dragons give the 6-3 speedster space to use his physical gifts.
Darius Shumpert, Lincoln
Toughness is a skill. Shumpert consistently carries one of the state’s heaviest workloads and plows forward, rushing for 1,381 yards — 51 percent of Lincoln’s offense — and 10 touchdowns this season. With a 38-inch vertical leap and 4.5-speed, everyone in the stadium knows Shumpert’s getting the ball and he’ll still likely carry the Rails to the playoffs. The senior running back also has a 3.8 grade point average and plans on signing with the Marine Corps Reserves after graduation.
Quinton Erickson, Ballard; Gray Gochenour, Dowling Catholic; Garret Jansen, Pella; David Kacmarynski, Pella Christian; Austin Kloewer, Dallas Center-Grimes; Dom Marschel, Hoover; Jared Myers, Colfax-Mingo; Grant Petersen, Bondurant-Farrar; John Raridon, Valley; Michael Santi, Madrid.