MISSOULA — Through the ups and downs of the sports world over the past six months, the college recruiting machine has powered through as furiously as ever.
Just ask Missoula Sentinel's Dylan Rollins.
The senior Spartan and offensive lineman had a busy summer, as NCAA Division I college teams took note of his talents, and in turn expressed their interest in Montana's top football prospect. So the offers began to shower in for Rollins from some of the largest universities in the country, both athletically and academically.
Now, the highly touted Rollins takes his time to weigh his options in a position not many Montana athletes find themselves in.
"It was easier in the summer when we didn’t have a season going on to kind of narrow down and see what I liked about certain schools, what I didn’t like," Rollins said. "Right now, same thing. I’m just focused on our season so all of the college stuff will come second, but right now that’s my main focus."
Rollins had planned to use this summer to showcase his skills at a number of junior days and camps around the country in hopes of garnering offers. However, the NCAA declared it a dead period for recruiting back in March and that continues through September, so college camps around the country were canceled. Rollins said he had about "half a dozen" junior days and even more camps he was originally planning to attend this summer.
While the COVID-19 pandemic forced those to be canceled, Rollins still found a way to get his name and film out there that grabbed the attention of coaches. He was able to attend one recruiting showcase in Las Vegas in July.
He said in the virtual junior days, he'd get tours of the stadiums and weight rooms while also getting a chance to meet coaches and players via Zoom. He'd also send in videos of him doing drills, among other things.
"Just me standing in a doorway so they could see how tall I actually am, how wide I actually am," the 6-foot-5, 285-pound Rollins said. "And a picture of me standing on the scale so they know it's legit and I'm just not saying how much I weigh and everything."
At the moment, Rollins has racked up 15 Division I offers. Montana State was his first offer (his older brother, Byron Rollins, currently plays for the Bobcats while his father, Josh Rollins, also played at MSU), with Montana following not long after. He also holds offers from Ivy League affiliates Yale, Harvard, Cornell and Dartmouth, though the Ivy League does not offer athletic scholarships. Fellow Big Sky Conference affiliate Northern Arizona has offered him as has FCS school Bucknell.
At the FBS level, Rollins has received offers from Central Michigan, which is coached by Missoula native Jim McElwain, Air Force, Oregon State, Utah State, BYU, UNLV, and Rollins also holds a preferred walk-on offer from Nebraska.
"It's been super exciting," Rollins said. "It's pushing me to work harder for that, which in turn makes me a better part of my team and better for them."
Sentinel football coach Dane Oliver said it's been new territory for him as a coach, as well, with Rollins' profile continuing to rise and schools reaching out, but if there was ever a kid who deserved this chance, Oliver said Rollins is right there.
"He's a gentle giant off the field," Oliver said with a laugh. "Dylan is a great, high-character kid, he was voted a team captain and it's exciting to see somebody go out of the state of Montana, potentially, if that's what he wants to do. So it has been a new process for both of us, and ultimately we've talked a lot with these boys, is the better the team gets, the more success will come with the college level. I've heard a common theme from all of these guys is they want to have a great senior season, and Dylan is no different than that.
"Overall for Dylan, he has the stature, and that's No. 1 for an offensive lineman, is you have to look the part, and he does. And they look for tenacity and when they get to college they can clean up, for lack of a better term, all of the other things. Now it's just about him settling in and being the dominant, physical offensive lineman that he can be."
Rollins said he would prefer to stay on the West Coast and is narrowing his decisions down now. He hopes to make his choice soon so he can focus on his senior year of football with Sentinel.
"I'm going to keep seeing what the limit is," Rollins said. "I'm shooting for the stars."