By BEN JOHNSON
Out-of-state options were available for Keys' Blake Maxey. But there was something about Northeastern State that appealed to him.
"I wanted that hometown feel," said the 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman.
Sure enough, that's what he went with.
On Wednesday, Maxey, along with teammate, JJ Ozturk, signed a letter of intent to join the RiverHawks for the foreseeable future.
"I'm pretty ecstatic," Maxey said. "I'm ready to get this part of my life started and see what it's like."
Providing analysis on Maxey, NSU assistant coach John Murray said, "you won't find a lot of kids like him. That's one of the ones we go after, size-wise."
Ozturk, a 5-8, 160-pound kicker, echoed Maxey's sentiments.
"I'm pretty excited," he said. "It's something I'm looking forward to; I'm looking forward to continuing my academic and football career."
Together, Maxey and Ozturk helped the Cougars finish second in District 3A-7 this past season. Keys also advanced to the second round of the 3A playoffs, where it was eliminated by Metro Christian.
"Both of these guys are hard-working kids," Keys coach Gary Willis said of his college-bound pair. "Both have great families who have helped Keys football tremendously throughout the years."
During the recruiting process, Maxey was fielding interest from Memphis and Arkansas Tech. Yet, NSU won out, despite the fact that Maxey will likely redshirt his first year on campus.
"It might not be until my junior year that I'm a starter," Maxey said. "So I just have to maintain my strength and speed and always practice hard."
For Ozturk, NSU has a family feel to it — literally.
"My brother is already there, and my dad teaches there," Ozturk said. "I've grown up in the area, and it'll be special to be a part of something at NSU."
The best part for both Ozturk and Maxey? Getting to play at NSU with each other.
"It'll be pretty nice to suit up with the boys that you've been playing with," Maxey said.
"That's a great benefit at NSU: being able to play with someone I played with for four years," Ozturk said. "We'll take some of that Keys Cougars pride over there."