For the first time in 19 years, a Lonoke Jackrabbits football player has signed a National Letter of Intent with an NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school.
Lonoke receiver Blake Mack signed with Arkansas State University during a ceremony on National Signing Day, Feb. 5, inside the foyer of the Gina Cox Center.
The last former Jackrabbits player to sign with an FBS school is Charles Gilliam, who played football for the Air Force Falcons.
Mack chose ASU over Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Monroe "because of all the prior success, winning all the conference titles and bowl games."
Mack was originally recruited by former coach Bryan Harsin, who left ASU to become head coach at Boise State following the 2013 regular season. North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson was hired to replace Harsion.
"This changed a lot just simply because I built a relationship with the staff but I chose to stick with it," Mack said, referring to the coaching change. "I’m extremely excited and very blessed to even have this opportunity to convert my talents on to the next level."
Mack, who is a three-sport star at Lonoke, said playing college football is a dream come true.
"All I’ve ever wanted to do since middle school was play Division I football or even just in college," he said. "All of the early morning workouts, two-a-day practices I wanted to skip but didn’t and playing in the intense heat have finally paid off."
Lonoke coach Doug Bost said Mack has a great opportunity with ASU.
"He’s going to a team that has won the Sunbelt three years in a row; they are building brand new facilities," Bost said. "It’s an up-and-coming team. I think it’s a great opportunity for him to represent the community of Lonoke."
Bost thinks Mack will do well with the Red Wolves after listening to Coach Anderson at a coaching clinic last weekend.
"He really likes to throw the ball around," Bost said. "I think this will really fit with Blake. I think this guy is all about the quick screens. They are a very fast tempo team. I think he will have a great opportunity there."
Bost said Mack signing with ASU is big for his football program at Lonoke.
"The younger kids coming through are going to see a someone who got a full ride to a Division I program and it gives them something to work for," Bost said.
Anderson said he likes that Mack is a basketball player.
"You are always looking for guys in this offense with size, guys who played basketball and have the ability to play above the rim," he said. "When recruiting Blake, Blake always bragged on the amount of dunks he would have at his basketball games. You can tell Blake loves to compete. The fact that he did play basketball, knows how to play in space, knows how to elevate- things we thrive on in our passing game."
Anderson said he thought other schools might make a run at Mack after the previous coaching staff left.
"We are excited to have him and he never wavered," Anderson said. "He loves what we do on offense; it got better for him to be honest. We are going to sling it around more than we have done in the past. He checked the numbers really quick."