Kaleb Slaven saw an opportunity. The Delta offensive lineman verbally committed to Ball State on Thursday. Among other factors, he thought he would get the chance to see the field for the Cardinals.
“Not next year, or maybe not even the year after that,” Slaven said. “But I think I can get playing time there, as to where if I go to a bigger school I would have to sit out probably a little longer than I’d want to.”
Slaven’s other offers included Cincinnati, Indiana State and Colgate. A rising senior, he said he had contact with Indiana and Purdue, though neither in-state Big Ten program had made him an offer.
Slaven said he also liked the prospect of playing with other local players with whom he’s familiar, including Yorktown graduates Riley Neal and Riley Miller, and Yorktown’s Anthony Todd, a fellow offensive lineman who has committed to the Cardinals and is heading into his senior year.
He also spoke highly of Ball State’s coaching staff, and felt he could be most successful working with the program’s director of strength and conditioning, David Feeley. He said Ball State projects him to likely play tackle and protect the blind side.
“I feel like every time I went and visited there, I felt welcome,” Slaven said. “They all knew who I was.”
Slaven played guard in his junior season at Delta to better accommodate the Eagles’ power running offense. He helped Delta average 336.1 rushing yards a game and teammate Joe Spegal ran for 1,960 yards and 30 touchdowns.
“(Slaven has) been a big part of us being able to establish a pretty good running game the last couple years,” Delta coach Grant Zgunda said. “But really, the truth of it is he’s a special football player. For how big he is, he’s such a great athlete, tremendous worker. So really it’s more about him. He deserves it, and he’s worked hard to get where he is.”
Zgunda said he told Slaven when he was a freshman that his combination of size and athleticism could lead to playing at the Division I level, albeit with considerable hard work. Zgunda said he’s seen that necessary effort. Now, Slaven has found that Division I opportunity, and after making visits and checking out his options, he decided Ball State was the place.
“I think it will be a fun five years for me,” Slaven said.
Contact prep sports reporter Sam Wilson at (765) 213-5807. Follow him on Twitter @SamWilsonTSP.