Recruiters eye big-target WR Alex Van Dyke with envy, as he and Consumnes Oaks eye big things.
By JIM McCUE | Senior Contributor
Alex Van Dyke is a big deal.
The Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove senior wide receiver is a highly-sought recruit with 29 offers to date. He has a prototype body for a big receiver, standing 6-feet, 4-inches tall and filling out at a current weight of 210 pounds. His big hands and long arms create what one college offensive coordinator called “the biggest catch radius he had ever seen,” and his speed makes him a scoring threat from anywhere on the field.
Add to his raw talent and natural abilities the legacy and insight from being the son of a former NFL wide receiver (his father, also Alex Van Dyke, played six seasons as a pro with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles), and the big deal about the 17-year-old is justified.
“He is big, physical, and fast,” Cosumnes Oaks head coach Ryan Gomes said. “He is becoming much more of a refined route runner and is learning to be more of a technician. His upside is huge.”
Despite all of the big talk about Alex Van Dyke, he strives to keep his head from becoming big.
“My parents and my family have always kept me in check and keep me humble every day,” he said. “The best thing they have done is to prepare me for life and taught me maturity, so that I will know how to handle myself and conduct myself properly.”
On the football field, Van Dyke has conducted himself well despite waiting to play organized football until his freshman year of high school. As a junior, Van Dyke had 44 receptions for 864 yards and 10 touchdowns and watched the recruiting letters and phone calls pour in from college football programs across the country.
Despite the multiple offers and growing attention, Van Dyke understands that he has room to improve. Camps and other offseason workouts have allowed the receiver to refine his game and concentrate on the intricacies that will take him to the next level.
“I think that I have good overall athleticism, but I have been working on my hands,” Van Dyke said of improving his game. “I have been able to focus on things like lowering my hips and running clean routes, which will help me this season.”
Gomes is thrilled with what he has to work with for the 2013 season, but believes that future coaches at the collegiate and potentially NFL level will benefit from the complete wide receiver package Van Dyke can become.
“I think that he is really just starting to master his craft,” Gomes said. “Alex is just scratching the surface of how good he can be.”
That’s a scary prospect for the Wolfpack’s opponents. But Van Dyke has long been tormenting foes with his talents on a variety of playing fields and courts. Alex’s athleticism and work ethic developed him into a multi-sport star as a kid, with basketball and soccer being his top two sports through middle school.
Van Dyke played on a competitive travel soccer team, and had the skills to continue to excel on the pitch in high school, but decided to make the transition to football for fall seasons. He still plays basketball at Cosumnes Oaks, but he realized that football would be his ticket to bigger things before he ever played a down.
“In the seventh grade, he said that he wanted to be a pro athlete,” the senior Van Dyke said. “I set forth a plan for him, and he bought into it. He believed in the plan and decided to stick with the plan to make it happen.”
That plan was built on Alex’s family unit, including his father who is not only a former NFL receiver, but also an athletic enhancement trainer that has helped numerous area athletes improve and work toward a college scholarship in multiple sports, primarily providing guidance and support.
“I didn’t sit him down and give him a tutorial on how to be a wide receiver when he decided to play football,” his father said. “I taught him how to catch the ball and told him to listen to his coaches and let the game come to him.”
Alex credits the foundation and skills that he learned in other sports for the success that he has had on the football field.
“I believe that all of the sports I have played or play have benefited me,” he said. “Soccer helped me with conditioning and my footwork, and all of the sports I participate in are part of a process for me.”
“I’m not going to stop the process that I built for myself because people think that I should focus on just one sport.”
Throughout his life’s transitions, including the increasing focus on football, the Van Dyke family has been by Alex’s side as mentors, cheerleaders, and friends.
“Our family supports one another in life and in sports,” Alex Sr. said. “He knows that I am his biggest fan and his biggest critic, but we will always be supportive in critique.”
“I can pass along some things about what to expect and what to do to overcome challenges, but ultimately he has to put the work in and do it.”
One major task that the family — and especially father and son — is taking on now is the college recruiting process. Despite the changes in the practice from 20-plus years ago when the senior Van Dyke was recruited by the University of Nevada-Reno out of Burbank High in Sacramento, father knows best and offers his advice.
“It is a privilege and an honor for colleges to come to you, but the most important thing is to stay humble and remember what got you there,” the former college standout said. “You need to stay consistent with what got you there on and off the field. Don’t get out of character for anyone and stay humble.”
Armed with the past experience of recruiting, Alex Sr. is adamant about serving in an advisory role only. When it comes time to make a decision come February, the choice will be made by the high school athlete and not Mom or Dad.
“I need to be humble and not fall into the pressure of the process,” Alex said. “My parents emphasize basing my decision on what is best for me, and not anyone else.”
Van Dyke pointed to three primary factors for making a college choice: academic reputation; Kinesiology program offerings; and how the wide receiver will be used in the program.
In the meantime, Van Dyke’s focus will be on high school academics, being a senior, and team success on the football field.
“I am looking for us to have a great season,” Van Dyke said of his final high school campaign. “We are talented, our quarterback is going to be good as always, and our line, both offensive and defensive, is very strong.”
“I feel that we are very solid overall.”
In the young school’s fifth varsity season, the Wolfpack is seeking its first Sierra Valley Conference title. With contributions from Van Dyke and his teammates, which include Duke-commit Kameron Schroeder and senior quarterback Alex Kropp, a league title and unprecedented playoff success are definitely within reach for Cosumnes Oaks.
And that would be a big deal.
>> Alex Van Dyke
>> Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove
>> 6-4, 210, WR
NICKNAMES: Peanut, AVD
2012 STATS: 44 receptions, 864 yards, 10 TD
COMING ON STRONG: In the playoffs last year, Van Dyke had 15 catches for 316 yards in two games for the Wolfpack, including a season-high 11 catches and 194 yards in a first-round victory over Christian Brothers.
FAVORITE PLAYER: USC wide receiver Marqise Lee. “I like how precise his routes are and his overall athletic ability and talent.”
LEGACY: Alex wears the No. 86 because it’s the same number his father, Alex Van Dyke, wore for the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles in his five years in the NFL. His Dad was a standout receiver at the University of Nevada-Reno and led the nation in catches (11.7) and receiving yards per game (168.6) in 1995. The Big West Conference Offensive Player of the Year was drafted in the second round (No. 31 overall) by the Jets in the 1996 NFL Draft.
ROAD TRIPS: Van Dyke has decided on four schools—Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, and UCLA—for his official visits. The fifth and final trip is being left open to keep his options open.
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