By JONAMAR JACINTO
Dylan Tilden didn’t start playing football until his freshman year at East Union High, and he’s not done playing yet.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound defensive end signed a letter of intent Thursday to compete for NAIA powerhouse Morningside College of Sioux City, Iowa.
“The one thing that stood out about Dylan was his work ethic,” said East Union head coach Willie Herrera, who played college ball with Morningside assistant Nathan Turner at Eastern Oregon University. “He’s one of those kids you just love to have on your team. He comes to work every day with that blue-collar attitude and doesn’t complain.
“The kid is strong as an ox. He put in work in the weight room and the classroom and I’m so excited for him to have this opportunity because he still has so much potential and is still learning the game.”
Tilden played seven games for the Lancers his senior season but was still the team’s fourth-leading tackler with 35. He also had three sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Herrera added that Tilden, who will pursue a business degree, had a cumulative 3.6 GPA.
“One thing our program has stressed from day 1 is grades,” Herrera said. “Dylan’s a four-year player for us but he’s also been a good student. Part of my job is to try and get these kids exposed to any four-year school. I tell these kids if you want to play football there’s somewhere for you to play, but you have to do your part starting with grades. When I talk to a coach I have to be 100 percent honest about their abilities and their attitude. From there it’s up to a school to take a chance and Dylan has really earned it.”
East Union was 4-16 in Tilden’s junior and senior years, but while he leaves a program on the rise he’ll join an established winner in Morningside.
The Mustangs have had enjoyed 11 straight winning seasons with a 112-23 record since 2004 and are the four-time defending champion in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. They were ranked No. 1 in the country for most of 2014 before falling to Marian University 41-21 in the semifinal round of the NAIA Championship Series. It was otherwise a historic season for Morningside, which established 43 program records, tied five others and broke 12 NAIA national records.
“I’m just so happy for him to get to fulfill his dream,” Herrera said. “He gets to play for an awesome program that is one of the top NAIA schools in the country that (wins) year in and year out.
“We might not have the wins at East Union, and they’ll come, but we’re producing some pretty dark good football players.”