Laker standout quarterback signs as walk-on

Any quarterback would be glad to have a guaranteed spot in the college ranks. Camdenton senior Paxton DeLaurent is ready to go fight for it. 

After leading one of the best offenses in the state of Missouri the past two seasons, DeLaurent is ready for his next challenge at Missouri State and he made it official by signing as a walk-on with the Bears on February 13. 

DeLaurent will join a group of six quarterbacks currently vying for the spot under Coach Bobby Petrino including Willard’s Reece Dawson who also joined the Bears as a walk-on.

“I’m super pumped for the open competition,” DeLaurent said, noting that none of the other quarterbacks, including himself, were owed anything by Petrino or former Head Coach Dave Steckel. “When I went on my visit he (Petrino) said everyone was going to get reps, the best guy was going to show out and I feel pretty confident I have the ability to do that. I’m happy for an opportunity to where it is not already set. 

“It is an open competition, a place where I can win a job and may be a 4-year starter.”  

The optimism is certainly high and for good reason, considering the senior’s track record and what has transpired for the Lakers the past two seasons with DeLaurent as the field general. 

After decades of a strong running tradition, Camdenton revamped its offense to a pass-heavy scheme and it has led to an Ozark Conference title, a pair of district championships and two straight trips to the Class 4 state quarterfinals. With DeLaurent taking the reigns, Camdenton went 23-3 during that span. 

Unsurprisingly, the quarterback shattered previous school records for passing attempts, completions and passing yards as well as passing touchdowns. After throwing just two passes for a 17-yard completion and a touchdown as a sophomore, DeLaurent amassed 7,909 career passing yards, 98 passing touchdowns and just 20 interceptions with a career completion percentage of 65 percent. He also rushed for an additional 447 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. 

DeLaurent did all this in just the 31 games he appeared in for the Lakers, averaging 269.5 total yards and 3.6 total touchdowns per game. Not bad for someone who threw interceptions in his first pass as a seventh grader and final pass as a Laker in the state quarterfinals this past fall. 

“I was able to do a lot of things and it has been such a great journey,” DeLaurent said.  

“You think that, it does not sound so good,” he continued with a smile, referring to those interceptions, “but everything between was a great ride and learning moments. It has been perfect and could not ask for anything more.” 

As a junior, DeLaurent was named Second Team All-State Quarterback, First Team All-Region Quarterback and First Team All-Ozark Conference Quarterback. 

One season later he was named the Class 4 Offensive Player of the Year for the entire state, First Team All-State Quarterback, the Class 4 All-Region Offensive Player of the Year and Ozark Conference Offensive Player of the Year, also taking first team quarterback honors. According to maxpreps.com, the senior had the third most pass attempts in the state, second most completions, third most yards and second most touchdowns for all quarterbacks in Missouri.

“For him it was just the work ethic he showed between junior and senior year, not being satisfied,” Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said. “He hit the weight room hard, tried to get himself in position to get where he could be and did not rest on his accomplishments. He’ll continue on and keep getting himself better on a daily basis. Wherever that takes him, I’ll think he’ll try to reach his full potential.”  

DeLaurent said he just loves the challenges football presents and the opportunity to continually learn, whether it is al the pre-snap reads he makes recognizing defenses to have an idea of where to go with the football, to his own throwing mechanics and the ability to lead a team. He relishes the responsibility that comes from a position like quarterback where he has the ball in his hands on every play. 

“Leadership is probably the biggest key factor,” the senior said of the game. “Even if they are not as good as the other team, if you can get them to believe they are better and you believe in them and they believe in you, it will take you very high places. Also, confidence and work ethic. If you have all three, those are intangibles people can’t coach and can make up for size and athleticism.” 

DeLaurent will certainly bring all he knows to this new endeavor and is eager for the road ahead, noting that he is already in contact with fellow Missouri State freshmen who are part of a recruiting class that should be in the upper echelons of the Missouri Valley Conference. The senior will major in education during his time as a Bear in Springfield.

“That shows Coach Petrino is able to draw some other guys and Steckel obviously got some good players as well,” DeLaurent said of an FCS program that went 1-10 in 2019, has not won a conference title since 1990 and will compete with the likes of a perennial powerhouse program like North Dakota State that has won nine straight. “I think we are looking at turning the Missouri State program around so I am excited for that challenge.” 

Well, there is one man who certainly thinks the quarterback can help make that happen.  

As if DeLaurent needed any further affirmation of his abilities, Camdenton defensive coordinator Nick Bruck did not hesitate to compare the quarterback to recent Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes. As a former leader of the 1999 state championship Laker defense and someone who has coached for 15 years, it is a comparison he does not make lightly. He points to the senior’s ability to extend plays, keep his eyes downfield using his athletic ability to allow receivers to get open and the difficult angles he can throw from- all of which makes a defense pay dearly. 

“If you are talking about Mahomes and this kid in the same sentence, you’re talking about some special ability. Definitely something that is uncoachable,” Bruck noted. “His competitiveness also puts him over the top. Just like Mahomes he is a competitor and definitely a kid where in the fourth quarter if you are down a score or the game is on the line, you want the ball in his hands. He is just a winner. 

“In the state of Missouri, he is the closes thing to Patrick Mahomes.”

It is certainly one of the reasons that has made coaching fun for not only Bruck, but Shore as well, who previously said he rediscovered his love of the game the past two seasons. 

“Extremely exciting two years so huge thanks from Laker staff, players and fans. Fun to watch and really proud of his accomplishments individually and as a team,” Shore stated. 

“The right guy at the right time and place for us. I think that sums it up. It is hard to get it all to fall into place at one time.” 

The feeling was mutual, of course, for DeLaurent who noted all the friends and teammates he has made and will keep in contact with and all the encouragement he received, even if there was a spotlight on him. 

“It has been an awesome atmosphere and my teammates and coaches have been so great. Hard to summarize, but it has been amazing,” the senior said of his Laker journey.  

DeLaurent will soon get back to work as he prepares for the next chapter and if his work ethic was anything like it has been the past four years, Shore sees a bright future ahead.

“Super competitive guy if you watched him play. I think he wanted a chance to go somewhere that was a little bit bigger and a chance to compete,” the coach said. “He just needed a chance. Admire him wanting to do that. He is not afraid to throw it out there and I think he’ll do well.”