The man who protected the blind side of Camdenton senior All-State quarterback Paxton DeLaurent all season long has officially offered his services to Central Methodist University.

The man who protected the blind side of Camdenton senior All-State quarterback Paxton DeLaurent all season long has officially offered his services to Central Methodist University.

Jeremiah Wilkens signed with the Eagles on Friday and is glad to have the opportunity to continue playing a game he has enjoyed since the seventh grade.

“It means the world, obviously. I’ve been on a couple visits there and it feels like family already,” the 6-foot-5, 250-pound left tackle said. “It is going to be a big step from high school to college, but I think I’ll do fine.”

That concept of family is a primary reason why Wilkens loves the game itself because he feels teammates are more like brothers. He liked the fact that Central Methodist was not too big or too small.

“Being there with the guys and being involved, it is just a great thing to have. Someone to look for if you need help or just to lean on,” Wilkens explained.

Wilkens certainly reciprocated that on the offensive line in a pass-heavy offense that was one of the best in the state of Missouri. With DeLaurent firing the ball all over the field, Wilkens was there to avert the pass rush and was a key reason why Camdenton averaged 409.4 yards and 47.8 points per game en route to a 12-1 season where the team’s only loss came to eventual state champion Webb City.

Originally on the defensive side of the ball, Wilkens said he was unsure of being on the offensive line but that soon changed when the Lakers revamped the offense to a pass-heavy scheme two years ago.

“I was truly blessed when we switched to the ‘Tide’ set and I was really good at being an offensive lineman,” the senior remarked. “I did not think I would like it at first, but I kind of just fell in love with it.”

Camdenton assistant Parr Pitts, filling in for Head Coach Jeff Shore who had other matters to attend to on Friday, enjoyed seeing that growth and transition every step of the way.

“Just a tremendous amount of work he put in and he just continued to improve every year,” Pitts stated. “Really saw him kind of blossom as a junior and his senior year he was definitely a leader for our team and was really one of the pillars of our football team on the offensive side. Excited for him to go play at a high level and CMU is a great place. I loved my experience there so I think he is going to do great.”

Wilkens is essentially following the footsteps of Pitts who was also once a lineman at Camdenton before playing football at the NAIA school in Fayette, Mo.

“He told me just put in the hard work and everything will fall into place,” Wilkens said of his coach’s advice.

Both Lakers certainly had a good foundation to build from as members of the esteemed group at Camdenton known as “Pappy’s Hogs.” The lineman group is a source of pride in Camdenton’s football tradition.

“I would not trade it for anything. I would be a ‘Hog’ to death, it is great,” Wilkens said of the experience. “All my friends that are ‘Hogs,’ we don’t care what other people think. It just does not matter to us because we know we put in most of the work.”

It certainly was not hard for Pitts to see the pride Wilkens took from that whether it was run blocking or the responsibility of protecting DeLaurent, noting a lot of Camdenton’s success on that side of the ball was up to him. A 2-year starter for the Lakers, Wilkens has earned All-Conference, All-District, All-Area and was voted as the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman by his teammates as a senior.

“I think he is going to be really good. He has those things you cannot coach,” Pitts said of the senior’s future. “He is big, strong and has really long arms, even for a 6-5 guy. That is what they want at that next level is that size. Then, they can kind of mold him into what they want and they have a really wide open offense.

“They are going to love what he can do because he is not only a really good pass blocker, but developed into a really good run blocker.”

But there is more to Wilkens than the physical attributes.

“It has been awesome because he brings a great attitude to our practice,” Pitts said, looking back over the years. “He brings a real positive approach to what we are doing. Even when he makes an error, he is one of those guys that is going to find a way to get it right next time.”

Wilkens certainly treasures the time he had at Camdenton as well, and actually wishes it did not have to come to an end so he could continue playing with his friends. That does not mean he could not make a pitch for them to join him.

“Maybe my friends will come to CMU with me and we can continue this journey,” said the senior who often carried the “Purple Haze” flag when the Lakers took the field on Friday nights.

If they may choose the route of playing college football, Wilkens also shared some advice.

“Just put in the work and if you are still in high school or an underclassmen, it does not matter,” he said. “Get in the weight room and don’t slack off because when you are a senior slacking will definitely show up.”

Wilkens intends to study business at the school.