Craig Dublanko could have sat back and waited for the crazy world of college football recruiting to come to him - and his sturdy, muscly teenage son, Joel.
But growing up in the quiet, unfrequented logging town of Aberdeen where the Nick Sabans and Urban Meyers of the world aren’t passing through very often, the Dublankos identified early on they could not wait around.
So they hatched an idea — the Joel Dublanko Whirlwind Tour.
“When he was in sixth grade,” Craig Dublanko said, “we started looking into all sorts of camps.”
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Now a massive 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior, Joel has the attention of colleges. He is big enough to man the middle linebacker spot at many universities.
“He is a top-300 guy (for 2016),” said Brandon Huffman, the director of recruiting nationally for Scout.com. “The question is, is he going to stay a linebacker?
“This spring will be crucial for him to be seen on the seven-on-seven camp circuit.”
Joel has scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Washington State, Tennessee, Akron and Montana, his father said.
“The (Dublankos) have done a good job of identifying schools, too, and getting him to the right camps,” Huffman said. “People know who Joel is.”
This all started in 2010 when Joel was in sixth grade. He was invited to the Top Gun Showcase in Virginia as part of the Football University camp circuit.
At the time, Joel was a running back. But he garnered the attention of FBU’s national youth director Eric Richards, who asked the Dublankos for any defensive film of their son, which they provided.
A few days later, Richards extended an invitation for Joel to play in the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl as a defensive end for the West squad.
After that, as the recruiting attention grew, the Dublankos ratcheted up their travel.
Joel is now a member of the U.S. Under-18 National Team, set to take on Canada in the International Bowl on Friday at AT&T Stadium near Dallas. This will be the teenager’s fifth national all-star game — with the last three coming with Team USA.
In the first two years of high school, Joel has participated in 13 camps nationwide. Two summers ago, he toured the South, going to Georgia, Tennesse, Mississippi State and Florida State.
“We went in one big circle,” Craig said.
They have also attended some of the summer camps of Pac-12 schools — WSU, UCLA, Oregon State and Stanford.
“I had to get my name out there,” Joel said.
Craig said his son received a piece of golden advice from Aberdeen High School product Mark Bruener, a tight end who played at the University of Washington before enjoying a 14-year NFL career with Pittsburgh (1995-2003) and Houston (2004-08).
“He told Joel, ‘You will get bigger, and somebody will want you to play forward on the (defensive) line,’” Craig said. “His advice was for Joel to stay back at linebacker. That has driven him to work hard and try and be a more athletic guy.”
Speed and lateral quickness are Joel’s biggest question marks. Since his ninth-grade year, he has run sprints on the Aberdeen boys’ track and field team.
And on the combine circuit, Joel has had learned to perform well without shoulder pads, particularly in seven-on-seven drills.
“There I’ve had to work on footwork a lot more,” Joel said. “I mean, I am not in pads, so I don’t get to hit people. So I’ve had to learn how to use my hands right and strike people at the line of scrimmage while learning their tendencies so I can predict what they are going to do.”
For all the miles he has logged, and all the coaches he has talked to — for as long as he has — has it ever worn out Joel?
“Sometimes it gets overwhelming,” Joel said. “Sometimes I do not want to answer phone calls — but I do. I just push through it.
“Right now the recruiting stuff is weird because (college coaches) are finishing up with this class. Right now it is quiet. Once this year’s recruiting class is gone, I am up next.”