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Originally thinking his football playing career came to an end in October, Coconino’s Cory Rexroat ended up finding himself a new home just two hours south in Surprise.

Signing his national letter of intent to Ottawa University, Arizona on Wednesday, Rexroat will long snap for the Spirit as the school opens in the fall. Admitting the early groundwork was done by Panthers head coach Jeremiah Smith and his mother, Rexroat said he had not heard of the school’s plans to begin a football program while opening the school.

“I had developed a whole plan. I was going to go to Alaska, I was going to fish all summer and make money, come back and go to (Coconino Community College) or whatever,” said Rexroat, before his mom encouraged him to apply to two-year schools in the valley. “She said ‘I don't want you to regret it four years down the road, I don't want you to be like well I could have tried, I could done something.’”

Listed by Coconino at 5-11, 160 pounds while finishing with 22 tackles and a sack on defense, Rexroat realizes his size isn’t conducive to a college football career. Admitting he was undersized while playing for the Panthers the past few years, Rexroat’s first reaction to Ottawa included the same thought process.

“We talked to Coach Smith and he got an email from Ottawa University down in Surprise. At that point, I was thinking it is a four-year university, it is NAIA. I know these guys are going to be huge,” Rexroat said. “It's NAIA, which is comparable to NCAA Division II. That was my main concern was that I know these guys are going to just be huge.”

Laughing while breaking down his revised summer plans, Rexroat said his plans to head to Alaska are clearly no longer an option as he will be lifting, eating and bulking up for the next few months.

With Ottawa still in the process of finalizing its place in the NAIA and finding a conference, the Spirit’s first year will include scrimmages while preparing for a full season in 2018-19. The plan offers players like Rexroat a year to familiarize themselves with the new program and in the Coconino senior’s case, continue to build himself up to be better prepared when games count.

“I'm getting a chance to go play football. In reality, this is my dream from when I was a little kid: playing college football and moving on to the next level,” said Rexroat, who wasn’t sure the dream could become a reality early on. “I got into high school and it was a lot harder than I thought. Even the transition from freshman football into JV football is a whole different speed, it is a whole different everything. I'm just grateful for the chance.”

Having learned to long snap under Smith and Jon Heitzinger, Rexroat said he’s plenty confident in his abilities as he moves on.

“I'm 100 percent confident in my long snapping ability, I've been long snapping since I was in eighth grade,” said Rexroat, adding that the sport’s rules will aid him a bit as well. “I don't have to be huge and they are not allowed to hit you until you pick your head up. It makes it a little easier.”

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Sports Reporter

Cody Bashore serves as the beat writer for Northern Arizona University basketball and football in addition to covering high school sports around Flagstaff for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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