YUKON — In eight years as Yukon's head football coach, Todd Wilson has built the program into a regular playoff contender, reaching the postseason four straight years.
And the Millers have done it all without a single NCAA Division I signee.
But that's changing.
Offensive lineman Tyler Bowling and defensive end Andre Dowuona-Hammond have each received D-I offers. And Bowling, at 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, is adding to his list on a regular basis.
The big left tackle has 10 offers from FBS and FCS programs, led by the likes of Oregon State, Tulsa, Wyoming and Ohio. Outside of Division I, Harvard and Penn have joined the mix as well.
It all started with his size. That drew instant attention.
But Bowling has spent the last 18 months proving to college coaches that he can play, too.
“A lot of my teammates like to joke that I'm just getting offers because I'm big,” Bowling said. “But I don't think so. My strength is pass blocking. I definitely want to improve on my run blocking and finishing plays.
“After last season, I started to realize this (getting D-I offers) was possible. It's been exciting with every school that comes around and ever offer I get.”
During Wilson's tenure, a only couple of players have D-I scholarship opportunities at lower-level programs and none have signed. Others have walked on. But Bowling's recruitment among major programs has reached a level that no Yukon football player has seen since Oklahoma State signed running back Richard Schwarz 15 years ago.
“Tyler's got some nice offers, and I think more are gonna come his way,” Wilson said. “The sucker wears a size 18 shoe. He'll just be 17 when he graduates. I think college guys feel like this guy could be a beast.
“You redshirt him, let him grow into his body, and he could be one of those guys who weighs 330 and can motor, because he does move well. That's what college guys see in him, because you can't teach that stuff.”
Wilson has been excited by the progress Bowling showed during spring practice and team camps. Bowling also attended individual camps as well, so that he's prepared to protect the blind side of quarterback Hayden Somerville in the fall, with the Millers seeking their fifth straight postseason trip.
Bowling is prepared to anchor the Yukon offensive line coming off his first season as a varsity starter. As a sophomore — having turned 15 just before the season — Bowling found it hard to get on the field among an experienced group of seniors.
“Part of it was that those guys were good, but part of it, he was just a kid. And he still is,” Wilson said. “His best football's way in front of him. He's got a chance to have a real good senior year, and go play college ball somewhere nice.
“If he'll keep working hard enough, there's no telling in three or four years where he could be.”