PETOSKEY — Wayne State came to the party late.
Still, the Warriors landed the prize.
Petoskey tight end Nathaniel Eberly-Rodriguez committed this week to the Division 2 university after the school was literally the last one to contact the all-Big North Conference two-way player.
“Wayne State was a late offer,” said Eberly-Rodriguez, an honorable mention all-state selection last season. “They were the last school to offer me before I made my decision.”
The downtown Detroit university also became the last one he’d visit.
Eberly-Rodriguez, who had last seen Detroit at age 8 for a baseball game, said he came away impressed with the city.
“Being from a small town like Petoskey,” Eberly-Rodriguez said, “it was interesting to see Detroit and how revitalized it is.”
“He felt the most comfortable there,” Petoskey head coach Gavin Fralick said.
The Warriors, who didn’t have a Michigan player from north of Muskegon or Flint, landed the physical 6-foot-5, 230-pound end and linebacker. Eberly-Rodriguez also played fullback and defensive end as a senior.
He snagged 18 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns in Petoskey’s run-heavy, double-wing offense, adding one rushing TD and reliable blocking at end.
Eberly-Rodriguez was the only BNC player to earn first-team honors on both sides of the ball, putting up 50 tackles (seven for loss), a forced fumble and one recovery.
“They are getting a very physical football player,” Fralick said of Wayne State. “The two major characteristics you identify for him are physicality and character. When he gets the ball, he’s not looking to juke anyone.”
Wayne State posted an 8-3 record last season, including a 7-1 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference mark and five-game win streak to end the season in which it averaged nearly 35 points a contest. The Warriors’ only GLIAC loss came against Division 2 national semifinalist Ferris State.
Michigan Tech, Grand Valley State and Central Michigan were among the other school recruiting the Northmen three-sport senior.
“I definitely don’t look back at the stats or the moments,” Eberly-Rodriguez said. “I look back at playing with the guys I played with since second grade.”
Eberly-Rodriguez is averaging 10 points a game as the Northmen started the basketball season 4-2, including wins over both Big North schools in Traverse City.
Part of the reason his recruiting journey took so long was a dislocated elbow suffered as a junior, which cost him five full games of the season before returning in Week Nine.
“He worked hard and came back from that injury to have this opportunity,” Fralick said.
Eberly-Rodriguez also hit the camp schedule hard in between his junior and senior seasons, going to eight different ones, from Hillsdale College to Michigan State to Michigan Tech and many of the Great Lakes State colleges in between. “Crunch time,” as he calls it.
“When I was a freshman and sophomore, it was something that was just an idea,” Eberly-Rodriguez said of playing college football. “It didn’t really become an attainable goal until a few months before my senior year.”