Jackson Stoefen was hardly on any college football program's radar about seven months ago.

The offensive tackle sat out his sophomore season with injury and couldn't attend North Scott's team camp last July because he was a member of the Lancers' baseball squad that qualified for the state tournament.

Head football coach Kevin Tippet knew Stoefen was athletic and smart, but he wasn't exactly sure how that would translate to the football field.

But by the end of North Scott's playoff run last November and the months that followed, almost every college program became aware of the 6-foot-5 and 276-pound right tackle.

After several whirlwind months of recruiting, Stoefen made a verbal commitment to coach Les Miles and Kansas University on social media Thursday night beginning in the fall of 2020.

"Everybody knew my name and who I was before I stepped on campus," Stoefen said. "They did a perfect job of making it feel like home. It really felt like I was back in Eldridge playing college football."

Stoefen earned a starting spot early in his junior season with the Lancers.

As the season progressed, he became more comfortable and dominant. He held his own against Clear Creek Amana's T.J. Bollers, a highly regarded prospect in the 2021 class, and Waverly-Shell Rock's Mosai Newsom, a Nebraska commit.

"There is no doubt Jackson performed better late in the year," Tippet said. "His best two games were our playoff games.

"He's smart, he's athletic and he's long. That will make someone a good offensive lineman."

North Scott offensive line and strength coach Tony Stewart helped set up two game-day visits to Iowa State for Stoefen. Soon after, his recruiting soared.

Illinois State, Toledo, Northern Illinois, Arkansas State and Kansas were among the schools to offer. He has made multiple visits to Iowa.

The relationship with Kansas started with a follow on Twitter. The Jayhawks asked him to come down for a spring practice.

"I was already going to Nebraska for the spring game, so we just decided to head down and drop by," Stoefen said. "I didn't expect anything, but coach Miles walked in and offered."

Stoefen tracked Miles' 11 1/2-year career at LSU, where he won a national championship in 2007 and had six other seasons with at least 10 wins.

In November, Miles was given a five-year contract to try and resurrect a Kansas program which hasn't won more than three games in a season since 2009.

"Geez, this man is the real deal," Stoefen said of Miles. "He played offensive line and coached offensive line. That's what drew me. He cares about those guys."

Stoefen, one of North Scott's primary pitchers and a first baseman in baseball, also was ready for the recruiting attention to subside.

"Honestly, it has been quite a headache," he said. "It has been really stressful dissecting places and what I liked and didn't like. I had to make sure I took the time and talked through every situation, and being with my family helped put everything together in the end.

"I just didn't have the same feel with other coaches and schools when they'd come in and talk to me. It didn't feel as personal as KU made it. One of the things I base recruiting on is the relationships I had with people."

The Lancers captured their district and reached the Class 3A state quarterfinals last season.

Even with the graduation of four offensive linemen, quarterback Nile McLaughlin and two-way standout Carson Rollinger, North Scott figures to be among the best teams in its district and a playoff contender.

Stoefen, the first player during Tippet's tenure to commit to a Power 5 program before his senior season, is expected to play a vital leadership role.

"The scholarship doesn't make him a better leader," Tippet said, "but he's going to have a big role because he's our only starter back on the offensive line. He has 11 games of starting experience, he's a smart young man and he'll have a big role up front of being that voice and making sure we're in the right calls.

"As a football program, it is rewarding when your kids work hard and go out and earn things. It makes you feel good."

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Sports Editor

Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.