Rogers’ senior Ben McNaboe could have taken the sure thing. He had offers from a handful of Division II schools and likely would have done well at that level. Something didn’t sit right with McNaboe, however. Like many high school…
Rogers’ senior Ben McNaboe could have taken the sure thing. He had offers from a handful of Division II schools and likely would have done well at that level. Something didn’t sit right with McNaboe, however. Like many high school athletes, he dreamed of playing at the Division I level. He didn’t want to look back at his college football career and think ‘what if.’ What if he could have made it at the highest level? What if he was good enough to hang with the talent in the Big Ten? What if?
“Recruiting started lightly for me my junior year,” McNaboe said. “I had some Division III visits. Over the summer I went to some camps, and I started getting interest from DII schools. Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State-Mankato, Minnesota-Crookston, University of Mary, Bemidji State and Northern State. I also had some light DI interest.”
During his senior season of football, he took visits to Duluth, the University of Montana, the University of Minnesota, South Dakota State, and Mary. He had offers from Duluth, Mary, Northern, and Crookston. Ultimately, he decided to roll the dice and accept a preferred walk-on offer from Minnesota.
“After talking to Coach (P.J.) Fleck, he talked about how a lot of PWOs end up getting scholarships, and a few of the PWOs are playing now,” McNaboe said. “I thought about how every level of college football is going to be a challenge, and this one is going to be the biggest challenge for me.”
“It has always been a goal to play Division I football,” McNaboe continued. “I don’t want to end up going somewhere else and always have a little bit of regret in my mind – what would have happened if I would have taken the PWO. I want to challenge myself and see where it goes.”
McNaboe was recruited by all programs to play either defensive end or outside linebacker.
“They liked my speed and my pass rushing ability.”
To make the jump from high school football to DI football, McNaboe feels he needs to focus on the mental side of things.
“I need to be confident in myself,” the senior said. “I need to work on my explosiveness off the ball. I have to become a smarter football player to be able to handle things quickly. Our high school defense was not difficult for me to understand but watching at some of the game day visits there are a lot more things going on.”
With a 1-8 record, McNaboe’s senior season did not go as well as the 6’3″ 214-pound athlete had hoped.
“We were all disappointed. We played three teams that went to State, but were positive the whole season. Since our freshman season, we had never had a losing season, but I was impressed by how the whole team kept their composure. We were always positive and played hard. Early in the year, our defense played well, and the offense struggled. Later in the year, the offense played well, and the defense struggled. We never were able to get that perfect game.”
McNaboe played defense full-time and would play roughly half the game on offense.
“I played a kind of a tight end/slot back kind of position. I was mostly blocking, but I went out on a few routes and caught a few passes. Near the end of the year, I had a few running plays.”
McNaboe’s primary role on the team was on the defensive side of the ball.
“Most of the time I was on the side the offense was most likely to run the ball towards. If it was a pass rush situation, I was usually on the wide side of the field because I had to keep the quarterback contained.”
McNaboe feels he turned a weakness as a junior into a strength as a senior.
“I think my strength is the pass rush. I think that will be my strength in college. Junior year I wasn’t the best pass rusher. I could tell I grew in that my senior year. I was proud of the way I was able to stop the run; I was either able to make the tackle or spill the run out to my teammates.”
As a junior, McNaboe started on defense and as a senior also started on offense.
During the winter he will be coming off the bench for the basketball team. The basketball center is mainly a defender and rebounder. In the spring he runs track. Last season he ran the 100, the 200 and was a member of the Royals’ state tournament 4X100 relay team.”
This spring, or even this winter he also anticipates getting an offseason program from the Gophers to add to or replace what he already does as far as workouts go. At that point, McNaboe will start to get answers to the question that ruled his recruitment . . . What if?