Two Chieftains sign with Baker
A pair of Tonganoxie High football players will continue their football careers in Douglas County.
Zeb Kissinger and Justin McDaniel signed collegiate letters of intent to play football at Baker University in Baldwin.
The Chieftain players signed last Wednesday, the first day high school seniors could sign with collegiate programs.
Kissinger looked at Hutchinson Community College, Benedictine and Sterling as other potential schools but signed with the closest university. Kissinger, who wants to major in engineering, also had Sterling as a strong candidate because of its engineering program.
But in the end, he went with the Wildcats.
"I liked the campus," Kissinger said. "They had a nice campus."
McDaniel received letters from Fort Hays State, Emporia State, Washburn and Benedictine.
He thought strongly about heading west to play at FHSU or attend Johnson County Community College, which does not field a football team.
McDaniel, though, was impressed with the Baker coaching staff and the coaches' personalities.
"They do have a good program," McDaniel said.
McDaniel received several postseason honors as a senior, including Class 4A all-state honorable mention as an offensive lineman.
In addition, he earned all-league first-team distinction as an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman. On defense, McDaniel had 46 assisted tackles and 25 solo tackles, including 11 behind the line of scrimmage during the regular season.
Kissinger was a first-team selection as both a defensive back and a receiver. Kissinger registered 50 assisted tackles and 22 solo tackles during the season, including three in the backfield, and one interception. Kissinger said he'd play tight end at Baker.
Last fall, the two seniors helped Tonganoxie to an 8-2 record and a Kaw Valley League championship.
They will join a team that finished 4-6 in 2006 and tied for seventh place in the Heart of America Conference. Baker is a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school.
Erica Clark, who is McDaniel's aunt, was one of several family members at the two-player signing. Erica's husband, Chuck, is a brother to Linda Bingham, Justin's mother.
Clark was especially pleased with her nephew's decision because she is a Baker alum, as is her husband. Chuck played football at Butler County before playing at BU during the 1988 season as an offensive guard.
"Part of the excitement, one, is that I'm proud of him because I think he made a good choice, good school," Clark said. "And I know going into his senior football season, going to football was the furthest thing from his mind."
She said her nephew was focused on the academic aspect of finding a college, but she thought he found a good fit of academics and athletics at the Baldwin college.
"It's extra cheese on the cheese fries," Clark said about her nephew's situation. "I want to be in engineering and get my degree, but I also get to play football. It's not a win-at-all-costs program."