Probably the biggest signing news out of the state/junior college ranks this week was Butler Community College landing Bishop Carroll’s Zeke Palmer, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound dual-threat quarterback who has a good shot at being the Grizzlies’ starting quarterback this fall. It was a major recruiting coup for the Grizzlies in not only landing a high-profile in-stater but a player who was very, very close to being either a Division I or I-AA player right out of high school and became the victim of he and his team’s success more than anything.
Palmer, who just led Carroll to a 13-0 record and their first state title since 1978, went to camps at Tulsa, Air Force, Yale, Army, Kansas State and Kansas before his senior season, but the offers didn’t come when teams had concerns over his size and, later, statistics that didn’t jump off the page – Palmer threw for 2,333 yards, 22 touchdowns and two interceptions and ran for 533 yards and 13 touchdowns but did not play a full game because the Eagles absolutely destroyed everyone they played. Their closest game of the season? A 24-point win in the state semifinals.
“My height scared some people off, and I don’t think the (Division I) schools look at Kansas as a powerhouse football state, and when we’re killing everyone we play, it seems like there’s no competition,” Palmer said. “My numbers weren’t great. I didn’t put up 40 touchdowns.”
Palmer, who scored a 28 on his ACT, started to lean toward Butler the more he did research on the benefits of playing at an NCAA Division II — he took visits to Central Missouri and Fort Hays State — versus a junior college, where the dream of Division I still existed. His initial contact was with Butler assistant Steve Braet, who handles recruiting in the Wichita area, and Braet put Palmer in contact with offensive coordinator Tony Haynes, and Haynes and Palmer clicked right off the bat.
“I think there are kids, every year, that slip through the cracks,” Carroll coach Alan Schuckman said. “This is a great opportunity for (Palmer) … he has the capability to be a player that two years from now is being recruited nationally.”
That Butler’s last two starting quarterbacks, Chandler Whitmer (Connecticut) and Billy Cosh (Houston) are both almost exactly the same height and weight as Palmer – and that they had a massive amount of success on the juco level — helped sealed the deal.
“We feel like he can already make every throw on the field,” Butler coach Troy Morrell said. “And he is a great leader, he has that moxie that you want in that position.”
Schuckman helped Palmer through the process, starting with sending out film to colleges and then breaking down the pros and cons of each place as the decision neared.
“(Schuckman) didn’t try to sway me to a certain school, but he was able to put the positives and negatives in perspective for me,” Palmer said. “I thought if I was going to go Division II, it was going to be Fort Hays State, but in the back of my mind there was always the thought that I could be a Division I or I-AA quarterback, and Butler was the place where I could make that happen … I’m ready to come in and compete for the job (at Butler), to give it my best.
“The percentage of players Butler places is amazing. Look at the history of the quarterbacks alone.”
Palmer is working out six days per week right now, throwing with Carroll’s receivers and getting ready for baseball season this spring. He’ll be in El Dorado working out with Butler this summer.
“At the end of the day, Butler was the best match for Zeke and his goals and what he wants to do with his career,” Morrell said. “I think once we got him and his parents (to El Dorado) it changed their perspective on a junior college and they felt good about the decision.”
2012 – Billy Cosh (Houston)
2011 – Chandler Whitmer (Connecticut)
2010 – Zach Mettenberger (LSU)
2009 – Ross Dausin (CSU-Pueblo)
2008 – Press Taylor (Marshall)
2007 – Press Taylor (Marshall), Mike Garrison (Fort Hays State)
2005, 2006 – Paul Eck
2004 – Zac Taylor (Nebraska)