FORTVILLE – A sought-after football recruit, Dan Werner hasn’t decided where he’ll take his skills when he graduates from Mt. Vernon next year.
The incoming senior can already say, however, that football has exposed him to some of the country’s most hallowed institutions.
Werner and his family are spending this week on the East Coast taking recruiting visits to Yale, Harvard and Princeton. The tight end/H-back with a 3.8 grade point average has already been accepted to all three schools.
Getting to know the various universities and personnel has been rewarding for Werner.
“Definitely visiting the campuses and meeting the players and coaches from the schools,” he said of his favorite part of the recruiting process. “It’s extremely important for me to have a good relationship with the people I’m going to be spending most of my time around.”
The Ivy League, which does not offer scholarships for athletics, is not necessarily Werner’s football landing spot, though.
Werner’s parents, Greg Werner (a former football All-American at DePauw and tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles), and Nancy Werner, are in New England with Dan this week.
“He’s gotten some encouraging news out here, so if he wants to go to these schools, that’s an option as well,” Greg said while boarding a flight from New Haven, Connecticut, to Philadelphia. “We’re just covering all of our bases right now.
“Dan is a good student, and he has the numbers – the SAT scores and the grade point average.”
Dan has been offered by Mid-American Conference schools Ball State, Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. Northwestern and Purdue have also expressed interest.
The schools are chasing Dan because of the young man’s physical attributes and the aforementioned academic prowess.
According to Mt. Vernon head coach Doug Armstrong, college coaches are impressed by Dan’s combine results from various football camps.
“He’s got a 4.6 40, a 36-inch vertical, he long jumps about 10 feet,” Armstrong said. “Those numbers, his combine testing, all those things are definite DI.
“To do all that at 6-3, 220 pounds, there’s not too many of those guys out there.”
Tight end or a tight end/slot receiver/fullback hybrid are Dan’s projected college positions.
In the Marauders’ run-based offense, Dan gained 1,058 yards on the ground last season as a junior for the 9-3 Marauders. Dan has also led the club in receptions the last two seasons, although the catches total only 11 because of MV’s wing-T system.
Dan also starts on defense for the Marauders, finishing with 54 tackles last season as a linebacker and safety.
“Most (college) coaches for sure view me as an offensive player,” Dan said. “There are some coaches that think I’m a better size for defense or try to recruit me as a defensive player, but I would prefer to play offense just because I’m more comfortable with the position and the techniques needed to play my offensive position.”
Dan appears to be on the way to play roughly the same collegiate tight end role that his dad excelled at many years ago. After graduating from Mt. Vernon in 1985, Greg went on to make 119 receptions for 1,742 yards at Division III DePauw in Greencastle.
The DePauw Athletic Hall of Famer and current area orthodontist played 10 games for the New York Jets in 1989, starting four and making eight catches. He was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in training camp the following season.
“They make note on Dan’s recruiting profile that his father played in NFL,” Greg said. “It doesn’t hurt. Occasionally coaches will bring it up to me, but that’s only been in a few circumstances. They look at everything.”
Greg noted that Mt. Vernon assistant coach Mark Singer was invaluable in putting together Dan’s online recruiting profile through HUDL, a commonly used service for college coaches to look at players from around the country.
And Greg emphasized that Dan stands out on his own.
“What makes Dan a very recruitable player more than anything is his speed,” Greg said. “Running 4.6 40s, that’s really fast when you compare that to his competition. For him being the size kid he is and being as athletic as he is, it’s something that’s really valuable. That’s where he stands out.”
The family hopes to make a college decision by the start of the fall prep season next month.
Dan has a clear No. 1 choice.
“Northwestern would be a great fit, I think,” he said. “I like the people and coaches there. It’s not too far from home. Extremely good academics, which is also very important for me. And they play in a great conference with high level football.”
With an apparent Division I scholarship commitment imminent, Dan will join a relatively brief list of Hoosier Heritage Conference players to take the field at DI programs.
Yorktown quarterback Riley Neal, an incoming senior like Dan, recently committed to Ball State.
Ozzie Mann, a Delta graduate, is on the Ball State roster, as is Mt. Vernon grad and former Werner teammate Andy Spears, the Daily Reporter’s 2012 Hancock County Defensive Player of the Year.
Shelbyville running back David Brown played for Ball State after graduating high school in 2009.
A veteran HHC coach at Mt. Vernon and previously at New Palestine, Armstrong has fielded plenty of calls from college recruiters about Dan recently.
“They’re kind of looking for red flags,” Armstrong said. “So I tell them, as far as Dan goes, there’s really no red flags on recruiting him or offering him.
“He practices hard, he practices everyday. He hasn’t missed a game. He plays through pain. He’s got good grades, comes from a good family. Has 100 percent workout attendance. Haven’t had any behavior problems. No problems at school. Those are the kind of things they’re looking for.”
Armstrong will have Dan for one more season. Interestingly, the Marauders’ quarterback this fall will likely be sophomore Pete Werner – Dan’s brother.
The next coach Dan plays for is fortunate, Armstrong added.
“There’s people interested in his services,” Armstrong said. “Whoever gets him is going to get somebody that’s going to be a good player for them for four years.”
Dan Werner football recruiting profile
High school: Mt. Vernon
Grade point average: 3.8
Position: Tight end, H-back, linebacker
40-yard dash: 4.6 seconds
Pro agility test: 4.4 seconds
Vertical leap: 35 inches
Long jump: 10 feet
Bench press: 280 pounds
Squat: 440 pounds
Offers from: Ball State, Bowling Green, Northern Illinois
Interest from: Northwestern, Purdue
Acceptance to*: Yale, Princeton, Harvard
*Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships