BY DENNIS SILVA II | DENSILVA2@GMAIL.COM
Colby Huerter is a two-time Class 6A all-state selection. A bruising, athletic 6-foot-1, 190-pound safety, he is a prolific stat-stuffer for Tompkins’ defense, averaging 6.2 tackles per game with 10 interceptions, a fumble recovery and a fumble caused in 26 games over the last two seasons.
Even more impressive than his physical ability, however, is his guile. One of my favorite plays—of any high school athlete I’ve covered in my 15 years in sportswriting—is this heads-up save during a game against Cinco Ranch two years ago.
“My approach to being a safety is to know your opponents better than they know themselves,” the incoming senior said. “So, when it comes to game time, there is not a lot of thinking on my part, just reacting. My mindset is to give maximum effort 100 percent of the time.”
That was enough for South Dakota State coaches to see on film, which Huerter had to rely on this spring in order to get attention. Because the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited in-person visits from coaches or recruits, the primary evaluator of talent was the eye test.
Huerter passed. On July 24, he verbally committed to play for South Dakota State, a NCAA Division I FCS member that competes in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Out of all the coaches I spoke to, SDSU was the most genuine,” Huerter said. “They cared about their relationship with me, not only on the field but off. The head coach (John Stiegelmeier) has been there for over 20 years. He is highly respected and has built a winning team. But the most important reason is they believe in me. They value me as a player.”
Huerter said he talked to a number of schools, but “they all kept me on the backburner.”
“No one stood out except for SDSU,” Huerter said.
Huerter started playing football in kindergarten, first flag football and then tackle football at the age of 2. It was the brotherhood and team aspect of the sport that drew him in. He grew up in Katy and credits his parents with instilling values of hard work and determination.
“They taught me to never give up, and, at the end of the day, family is all that matters,” Huerter said.
Huerter spoke more on South Dakota State, the effects of COVID-19 on his recruiting, and more.
Q: How did this current state of uncertainty with the coronavirus affect your recruiting, if at all?
A: “I was invited to a lot of junior days and was not able to attend. That hurt me, since I was not able to be in front of the coaches. I had to rely on my two years of film to get me noticed. I was able to talk to the coaches on a weekly basis and was able to virtually visit SDSU online. The coaches at SDSU is what sold me on the place.”
Q: What did South Dakota State coaches say they had in mind for you? How did they say they could see you developing for them?
A: “They are thinking I can play a little bit of outside linebacker, but majority safety. This will open up more opportunity for playing time.”
Q: In general, what are your thoughts about the prospect of playing football in midst of a pandemic should that be the case this fall?
A: “I want to play the game I love. I want to feel normalcy again. All my team does.”
Q: From your freshman year to now, where have you seen the biggest improvements in your game playing safety?
A: “Physically, I have gotten bigger, faster and stronger. Mentally, the game has slowed down through the years because I have a better understanding of what to look for, what to take risks on and knowing offenses’ weaknesses.”
Q: You have played a critical role in establishing Tompkins as a regional threat over the last couple of seasons with consecutive third-round playoff appearances and 21 wins over the last two years. What has the process been like for you as far as helping develop a program and culture from scratch?
A: “In the beginning, we had to trust the process. After the first winning season, we realized that we will be better as a whole if we became player-led rather than coach-led. Individually, I helped by taking a leadership role and earning my teammates’ respect as one of the captains.”
Q: What are your personal expectations for the upcoming season, and what would you like to focus on before heading to South Dakota State next year?
A: “I want to enjoy my senior year with my fellow teammates that I grew up with since I was young. My personal goal is to become a three-time all-state DB.”