TOWAMENCIN >> Football wasn’t the main sport for Keith Earle as a youngster.
“When I was real little, I thought I was going to have a future in track. I thought I was pretty good in track,” the North Penn senior said. “But just going back to (football at) Pennbrook (Middle School), I saw the leader I could become. With that just came the talent, feeding off my teammates and everything.”
Returning to the gridiron proved an advantageous decision for Earle, who became a standout defensive end and tight end for the Knights. And Wednesday afternoon, he and teammate Nyfease West celebrated their National Letter of Intent signings to Division I Football Championship Subdivision programs – Earle to Lafayette College, West to Delaware State University.
“This has always been a goal,” said West, a running back/defensive back that was The Reporter’s 2015 Football Athlete of the Year. “It finally look like I was finally going to reach that goal my sophomore year after I had I think it was 1,500 yards (rushing). After that season, I started to think I could go D-I or Division II.”
Earle and West were among the handful of local football student-athletes that made the college picks official on National Signing Day, the first day of the sport’s signing period.
“It’s definitely exciting. It didn’t really hit me until today when I woke up when I had to fax the paper work into the coaches,” Earle said. “When I got here to school, all my friends, family, they definitely gave me a warm sense of feeling.”
Lansdale Catholic’s Ryan Quigley finalized his committed to Princeton after capping off his career earning a second straight Philadelphia Catholic League Class AA Division Player of the Year award.
“I am proud of my team and individual accomplishments at LC. I am eager to take on the vigorous challenges both academically and athletically which Princeton has to offer,” said Quigley in a press release from Lansdale Catholic. “I wanted to take this time to thank my family, teammates and coaches, who greatly contributed to my success.”
Upper Dublin quarterback Ryan Stover, who led the Cardinals to a District 1-AAAA championship and the PIAA semifinals in 2015, signed his LOI to attend Towson University, which plays in the FCS’ Colonial Athletic Association. Stover’s UD teammate Isaiah Henrich made his commitment to Division II East Stroudsburg official.
Temple University got signatures from both Cheltenham’s Branden Mack and Upper Merion’s Isaiah Graham-Mobley while Wissahickon’s Yondel Dudley signed with DII Shippensburg University.
West ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons as a varsity starter, including 1,399 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior despite missing three games due to injury. He earned All-Suburban One League National Conference first team honors at running back and honorable mention at defense back as the Knights went 11-3 overall and won the National with a 7-0 record.
West eclipsed 100 yards on the ground in all four of North Penn’s District 1-AAAA playoffs games last season, collected 247 yards and a TD in the quarterfinals against Downingtown East and 233 yards and two scores in the semifinal win over Neshaminy.
“It’s not about statistics with Nyfease, it was about winning,” North Penn coach Dick Beck said. “When it came down to game time and big games situations, he was the guy we gave the ball to.”
West said that while he had interest from Temple, Villanova, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, it was Delaware State was the first to offer a scholarship.
“Other schools were playing around and beating around the bush, Delaware State has always led me from the start when they offered me in May,” said West. “And I just thought that was a great fit and the coaches are very seriously about me. They contact me every week and they were contacting me every week before so I felt confident with them.”
Delaware State, located in Dover, went 1-10 and 1-7 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in head coach Kenny Carter’s first season in 2015.
“North Penn’s a powerhouse school in football, so I hope to bring winning to Delaware State,” West said.
West has an eye on majoring in business, perhaps business management.
“I’ve always been good in the business classes, I always seem to get A’s,” he said. “I also eventually one day I want to own my own business. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
Earle was looking at Monmouth University and Lehigh University, but he found the right college for him in Easton.
“I wanted to pick an athletic and academic proven school. Obviously, campus life has an effect on it as well. But I felt Lafayette College was the best option for me.”
A three-year starter for the Knights, Earle was a SOL National first-team selection at defense end for a North Penn defense to allowed 19.2 points per game. He had five sacks in NP’s district 27-14 quarterfinal win over Downingtown East.
Earle was also a second-team conference pick at tight end, catching 12 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown.
“He’s been a tremendous leader on and off the field, in the weight room,” said Beck of Earle. “He’s exactly what we’re looking for in any type of student-athlete when it comes to academics and athletics and being a great character kid.
Lafayette finished 1-10 and 0-6 in the Patriot league in 2015. Frank Tavani has been the Leopards’ head coach since the 2000 season, with Lafayette making the FCS –formerly 1-AA – playoffs four times during his tenure.
“They see me as a pass-rush specialist for now,” Earle said. “Hopefully, I can get bigger and bigger, I can be that three-down lineman that they want me to be. And then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Earle is planning on being a civil engineering major and has already delved into the area of study. He is enrolled in North Penn High School’s Engineering Academy and went to engineering camps during the summer.
“I’ve always been interested in buildings and structures,” he said. “Going behind the background of building one, that was definitely key. But it’s a great field, it’s broad field for me.”