(Kenny Felt/Exclusive to the Tribune)
With two ex-defensive linemen starting for NCAA top-25 college football programs and two present Greyhound D-linemen already signing letters of intent to take their show to the next level, it is apparent that Fort Scott Community College knows a thing or two about defensive line play.
The 2009 Greyhound NJCAA national runner-up team saw defensive linemen Byron Jerideau and Anthony White leave the Fort and develop into starters for Sixth-ranked South Carolina and No. 20 Michigan State, respectively. Jerideau and White were both standout defensive tackles for the 'Hounds during the 2009 season.
Current defensive linemen Justin Taimatuia and Demetrius Hill recently signed letters of intent to play football at the next level with Boise State and Indiana University respectively, while freshmen Bradley Hefley and William Bland are both being scouted heavily by recruiters from Football Bowl Subdivision (Division IA) schools.
Taimatuia, a 6' 2", 285-pound sophomore from American Samoa, is a two-year starter for the 'Hounds while Hill is a 6' 3", 245-pound red-shirt freshman defensive end from Kankakee, Ill. Taimatuia showed his athletic talents against Dodge City last Saturday when he broke through the line and blocked a Conquistador punt that resulted in the game clinching touchdown.
Hill, known by his teammates as "D-Hill," is leading the Greyhound defense linemen in sacks (3 1/2), tackles for loss (11 1/2), and yards for loss (59 yds) while Bland, a 6' 6", 250-pound defensive lineman, is second on the team in all three categories. Hill's output has put him in the Jayhawk Conference top five in all three categories. He is the league leader in yards lost.
Bland scored when he intercepted a pass and raced 65 yards to pay-dirt against Butler, while Hefley showed his desire to win when he raced 80 yards to run down a defensive back from scoring after a blocked field goal attempt in the same game.
As a unit, the front four of the "Dark Side" defense, as the Greyhounds like to be known, is second in the Jayhawk Conference with 14 sacks while leading the conference with 19.2 yards lost caused by these sacks. They are also second in pass defense causing opponents quarterbacks to throw for just a 38-percent completion ratio.
First-year defensive coach Richard Johnson is no newcomer when it comes to know what it takes to be successful on the defensive side of the football. Johnson played four years as a defensive lineman for the University of Kansas and recorded 88 tackles in his playing career while starting 33 games.
Defensive line performance is something that the Greyhounds have excelled in since the 1970's, when Mitch Sutton starred at defensive tackle, and two years later, when they had Cliff Frazier manning the defensive side of the line.
Sutton was a dominating NJCAA All-American defensive lineman for the 1970 Greyhound team that went on to win the NJCAA national title with a perfect 11-0 record. Sutton went from FSCC to play for the University of Kansas and then was a third-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Frazier followed in Sutton's footsteps the following two seasons when he was an NJCAA All-American defensive lineman for the Greyhounds during the 1971 and 1972 seasons. Frazier was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after a successful two seasons at UCLA, where he was named All-American in 1974.
The latest of great former Greyhound defensive linemen to reach their dreams of playing in the NFL is Rob Jackson, who starred for FSCC not only from his defensive line position, but also caught passes at the tight end position during the 2004 and 2005 seasons. Jackson was drafted in the seventh round by the Washington Redskins after a two-year playing career at Kansas State.
Jackson continues to work hard for the Redskins and is currently playing linebacker. He even scored his first NFL touchdown in week three of the 2012 season on a pass reception.