The University of Akron holds a special place in the hearts of Bill and Lori Dennis.
The married couple each earned college degrees from UA and enjoyed their time there.
So, it came as no shock that when their son, Rittman senior Blake Dennis, was offered a scholarship to play football with the Zips he accepted.
“Growing up, a goal of mine was always to play Division I football,” said Blake Dennis, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound wide receiver. “Akron is only about 20 to 30 minutes from my house. A lot of people went there that I know in my family and from our area.
“They offered me in the spring and I went to camps, and it felt like home from the start. I am just real excited to be going to Akron.”
Blake, 18, is known for his speed and route-running abilities. He has battled injuries during his high school career but is looking forward to having a healthy senior year.
“Blake is a kid where his strengths are his work ethic and his speed,” said Rittman coach Bill Dennis, who is also Blake’s father. “He is a workaholic, which can be good and bad. Sometime he works too hard, which can lead to injury. He needs to understand when he is injured and needs to take a break, he should take a break.”
Dennis played through a high ankle sprain last season and caught 31 passes for 221 yards and five touchdowns for a Rittman team that finished with a 2-8 record. He also plays point guard in basketball and runs track for the Indians. He set school records in the 200-meter dash (22.6 seconds) and 400 (50.49 seconds) as a sophomore, but a pulled hamstring limited him during his junior track season.
“He has God-given speed, and another intangible that you can’t see is his football IQ,” Bill said. “I think Akron saw that. He understands the game and has been around it his whole life.”
Bill Dennis played football at Bluffton and then graduated from UA. His wife, Lori, and oldest daughter, Melanie, 23, also are UA graduates. Youngest daughter, Molly, 15, is a sophomore at Rittman and oldest son, Tyler, 25, is an Ohio State graduate who played quarterback at Rittman, Morehead State and Glenville State. He is Rittman’s offensive coordinator.
Blake Dennis has a 3.2 grade-point average and is considering majoring in education at UA. He has earned eight letters and expects to nab three more as a senior between football, basketball and track and field to bring his total to 11.
“From what I understand, the last Rittman football player to get a Division I scholarship was Bruce Nichols, a kicker, who went to Toledo in the 1980s,” Bill said. “We feel very fortunate that Blake has this opportunity with Akron.”
Bill said he plans to put Blake into games as a wide receiver, cornerback, kick returner and punt returner. The Zips recruited him to be a slot receiver on the inside of the field.
“It feels good to make my decision now so I can focus on going into my senior year and having a great final year,” Blake said. “We are looking at having a pretty good team this year.”
Dennis also drew interest from Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Central Michigan and Buffalo.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.