AVON LAKE — At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Avon Lake junior two-way lineman Ben Oxley was having no problem attracting interest from Division I football programs.
But along with his size and athleticism, the football, basketball and track and field athlete also happens to excel in the classroom, ranking among the top five students in his class.
So it’s really no surprise that Oxley recently made an oral commitment to Northwestern to continue his football and academic career, where he’ll start out as a defensive tackle.
“Well, obviously, the academics that Northwestern offers is incomparable at most Division I programs,” Oxley said. “But they also play Big Ten Football, and growing up in the Midwest, it’s all about Big Ten Football and it’s been my dream to play for a Big Ten program.
“Coach (Pat) Fitzgerald is one of the best collegiate head coaches you can ever find. From the assistants down to the trainers and to the academic support staff, everyone associated with Northwestern was great during this process. I’m looking forward to becoming a Wildcat. It’s just a great place to play and to go to school.”
Oxley said he plans to major in economics or LLC (language, literacy and culture).
“LLC is about learning how to be part of the people side of business,” Oxley said. “I know that’s what Coach Fitzgerald studied while he was here and he turned me on to that. So that’s an option.”
Both retired Avon Lake football coach Dave Dlugosz and incoming coach Larry Laird, who was an assistant under Dlugosz, spoke glowingly of Oxley.
“No. 1, he’s a very typical Northwestern student because he takes all kinds of challenging honors classes here at Avon Lake and he’s in the top five of his junior class,” Dlugosz said. “No. 2, as an athletic, 6-6, 270-pounder with a long frame and real long arms, he can definitely succeed at the Division I level. He could be successful at either offensive or defensive tackle. What I think they’re going to do at Northwestern is start him on defense because he’s got that long frame and those long arms.
“He’s just a very coachable individual and he’s very hard on himself. He’s a self-motivated type of kid, a person who’s willing to stay out there as long as it takes and help himself improve. He’s a leader in our weight room and sets a great example for his teammates both on and off the field. He has a very solid head on his shoulders.”
Laird said having a player like Oxley coming back for his senior year should make life a lot easier.
“Ben’s one of those kids that’s just a wonderful kid,” Laird said. “If we could hand pick a college program that Ben would enter, I think Northwestern would have to be at the top of the list. It’s a great program and a great place for Ben. They have the high academics that he wants and they’re in one of the best Division I football conferences.
“He’s just an outstanding individual. He’s much smarter than both Dave and I combined. He’s a very hard-working young man. He’s what high school sports are all about. He’s getting everything he’s earned and deserved.”
Laird said Oxley’s quickness and size should help him at the next level.
“Ben’s got great feet,” he said. “He’s very physical and he’s real athletic for a kid his size. And he moves really, really well. One thing that stands out about Ben is that he’s really coachable. You only have to tell him something once and he gets it. More often than not, he gets the job done.”
Dlugosz said Oxley made it a point to reach out to him and Laird and thank them for all of their assistance in his college search.
“That was one of the first things he did,” he said. “That’s just the kind of kid that he is. To be a great offensive lineman, you have to be very disciplined and have no ego, and Ben fits that to a tee. He’s a very team-oriented individual. He said he was relieved to have this done so he could focus on his grades and on a championship football team as a senior.”
For Oxley, the feeling is mutual.
“I’m so blessed to be in a program like Avon Lake and to play for these types of coaches,” he said. “It’s a blessing to hear those types of words. I will never ever forget what they’ve done for me and my family. I thank God every day that I live here and can be an Avon Lake Shoreman. It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
Oxley’s older brother, Shawn, is a Notre Dame graduate who lives in the Chicago area. Shawn was a Fighting Irish walk-on who ended up playing all four years. Northwestern is located in nearby Evanston, Ill.
“I’m glad to have this decision made and I plan on having a successful senior season with a great group of guys and looking forward to kicking some butt out there,” Oxley said. “I’m so excited to be a Wildcat and for that opportunity. The day I committed, I was speechless and ecstatic. I’m very excited for this senior season. Hopefully, we’ll have another state championship in the books when it’s all said and done.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.