By Zach James Herald Assistant Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Ellsworth Community College will gain five new members to its football squad this upcoming season from the area — all from the same school.
Wednesday is National Signing Day all across the country, and while that usually gains attention for big-name prospects going to college football playoff-eligible schools, Clinton and head coach Lee Camp rolled out the red carpet for the five who signed their letters of intent.
“Usually we’re excited to have one or two players up on stage, and for us to have five to be determined to want to go play at the same place by happenstance is very unusual,” Camp said.
The five who did sign to Ellsworth on Wednesday are Kurtis Williams, DJ Bessellieu, Delante Chamberlain, Dustin Caldwell and Alex Caldwell.
All five will be playing football for the Panthers, although there was thoughts of the Caldwell brothers playing two different sports.
“We want to go play football there, because of the atmosphere and the coaching staff,” Alex said.
“It’s always been my dream to play college football since I was a little guy, and just to go through this experience and to sign with a team like Ellsworth is really awesome,” Dustin said.
“I think it’s neat that we’re five out of 42 who get a chance to continue our careers,” Williams said.
The head coach of the Panthers is Josh Lattimer, who just finished his first season at the helm in Iowa Falls. Ellsworth went 2-9 this past season in the ICCAC.
“His idea is that he wants tough, in-state kids to build his program around,” Camp said. “Any place is going to be fortunate to have all five who work hard and have great personalities.”
Each student-athlete said it was an individual decision despite all five choosing to be teammates leading up to signing day.
“I think it was a great decision by all of us,” Bessellieu said. “We all saw a lot of good things when we each took our visits and hopefully we can all have a great fall coming up.”
Bessellieu can take a deep breath knowing his career is prolonged after a knee injury shortened his senior season, but Camp kept putting in a good word for him despite the setback.
“I’m point blank with the coaches on things, and I told Coach Lattimer that they might want to take a chance on him,” Camp said. “We gave him footage of our scrimmage against Dubuque Hempstead, and that’s what sold them on DJ. I’m really happy for him.”
In terms of Williams, Camp said the coaches “drooled” over his game tape and wanted him immediately.
“Anytime you get someone around 6-foot, four inches and is over 300 pounds, you know a guy like that can make a difference,” Camp said. “He is a solid person who has good feet moving.”
Chamberlain was pushed in the fall through some obstacles, but Camp believes he became stronger for it, and thinks he can even become more tenacious.
“He’s an impact player, and one thing I think we’ll see is that he’ll gain some weight and move closer to the ball and become more physical.”
Chamberlain is raring and ready to go.
“I’m excited to go play for the Panthers, and what stood out to me was that they respected us and showed us around like they wanted us there,” he said.
Bessellieu is believed to be the first of the five who committed first, followed by Williams, then Chamberlain a few weeks later, rounded out by the brothers who didn’t commit fully until last week.
The positions for the five are as follows: Bessellieu at offensive guard; Williams at defensive line, Dustin will look for a position at running back while Alex is deciding between playing at defensive back or running back and Chamberlain will seek a position as defensive back.
Camp has ties to the Ellsworth program as his son, Jordan, is an assistant baseball coach with the Panthers. Despite the connection, Camp believes it did not help sway any of the five to go play at Cadet Field in Iowa Falls.
“I kinda left that open, and all I said is to go visit these places,” Camp explained. “I didn’t try to push it any way and let the kids decide where they wanted to go visit.”
Get to know Ellsworth Community College • Location: Iowa Falls, IA • Enrollment: Approximately 1,100 students • Named after Eugene Ellsworth • Member of Iowa Community College Athletic Conference (ICCAC) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).