A senior quarterback with the Springbank Phoenix plans to head to Ontario next fall to continue his promising football career.
Danny Skelton, 17, signed his letter of intent earlier this year to join the University of Windsor Lancers.
"I was talking to them over the off-season a lot, since spring," Skelton said. "They had a chance to see some of my film from years past. Since I was fortunate enough to play and start in my Grade 10 and 11 seasons...that was really helpful in the recruiting process.”
The six-foot-two, 185-pound pivot said the deciding factor in joining the Lancers was the program's coaching staff, as well as the team's ambition.
"I had a bunch of calls over the phone and Zoom calls with them and was really impressed with what they had to offer," he said.
"I want to have that opportunity to go play for a team where I can make an impact as a leader, not just as a player, and ultimately, try to bring success to the team and be as much a part of that as I can."
Windsor's football program is in a state of necessary rebuild, after finishing with a 1-7 record in its last three seasons. The Lancers finished in 10th place in the 11-team Ontario University Athletics (OUA) conference last year, and haven't qualified for the OUA playoffs since 2014.
"They haven’t been the most successful team in the past, but they’re in a stage where they’re trying to build something great," Skelton said. "I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of that.”
The Lancers' head coach, Jean-Paul Circelli, said Skelton's poise in the pocket was one of the attributes that caught the eye of Windsor's scouts.
"A lot of times with high school players, you see people take off a little too early and not be able to hang in the pocket and make those throws," he said. "The more we watched, the more we saw he has that poise and maturity to stay in there, take the big hit and not be afraid to wait for the routes to develop to hit those receivers at the optimal time.”
According to Circelli, the Lancers' current starting pivot is in his final year of eligibility, meaning Skelton will have the opportunity as a first-year player to challenge the team's other quarterbacks for playing time.
"We're bringing in a guy like [Skelton] to compete right from the get-go," he said. "If he's the best guy, he's going to get a chance to play. I think it speaks to how high we value him if we're bringing him from Alberta all the way down to Windsor."
Skelton will join the Lancers after a successful high school career with the Phoenix. During his sophomore season, Skelton helped Springbank to a second-place finish in the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) in 2018, with the team's only losses coming against the perenially strong Cochrane Cobras. In his Grade 11 campaign, Skelton was the team's first-choice pivot and led the team to a third-place finish, with a 4-2 regular-season record.
Unfortunately, Skelton did not get to play his swan song campaign for the Phoenix this fall, as the RVSA season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he and his Phoenix teammates are still hopeful they will get to play some games in the spring.
"Obviously, it’s disappointing," he said. "Senior year of high school, you want to play football against other teams. It’s really nice to be able to practise and play the sport, but it definitely was disappointing we wouldn’t get to play other teams.”
In tandem with his high school career, Skelton also featured as the starting quarterback for the Airdrie Raiders midget team in the spring of 2019. He led the team to a Division 2 championship in the Calgary Spring Football Association.
"He has the drive to be the best player on the field, and he plays his best in the big games when the game is on the line," said Raiders' head coach, Steve Kemp. "He has a strong arm, is mobile and very smart. There are too many positives to list about him, but until this season was cancelled, he was poised to be one of the top quarterbacks in our league, for sure."
Kemp added Skelton will bring a strong passing range and smart decision-making ability to the Lancers.
“This is going to be a great opportunity for him," he said. "I’m excited for him. He’s a great kid and we were very fortunate we got the chance to work with him.”