ARCADIA — Standing on the field of AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and surrounded by some of the best high school football players in the country, Jacob Lallemont felt like he belonged.
The Arcadia High School senior had been to two tryouts and displayed enough skill to be selected to the USA Football Under-17 team roster for a January game against Team Ontario — a select team from Canada. The game and the week of practices leading up to it serve as a proving ground for aspiring collegiate football players looking to get reps against top-level peers, as well as a chance to stand out for those high school players who have already signed their letters of intent.
Count Lallemont among the former.
Being noticed as a defensive lineman can be difficult, especially when playing at a smaller-population high school. So when Lallemont was told about the opportunity to try out for Team USA, he jumped at the chance. The 5-11, 220-pounder attended a two-day tryout in Blaine, Minn., and then a week-long audition in College Station, Texas.
Once he was selected for the team, he and his temporary teammates went through four days of practice before the game.
“They set it up like a high-school week,” Lallemont said at an Arcadia practice last week. “It was great. There were amazing athletes there, (NCAA Division I) guys, all from different places and backgrounds.”
The team had two lineups on each side of the ball and they rotated each series, so Lallemont played half of the defensive snap and recorded an assisted tackle in Team U.S.’s 49-7 win. He said he felt like he held his own, and playing inside the largest stadium in the NFL was unforgettable.
“It’s insane. That atmosphere of being able to play in the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, that’s something you don’t think you’ll ever experience,” Lallemont said. “It’s a once in a lifetime thing.”
Lallemont is a bit of an in-between player. He has the frame to put on weight and be an interior lineman, and he has the explosiveness off the ball to play on the outside. It’s more likely that his collegiate football career would come as a defensive end, because the college coaches he’s spoken to say his mobility is what they like most about his game, he said.
“Jake never looks at it as, ‘I’m an all-state type player, and you’re not,’” Arcadia coach Derek Updike said. “He looks at it as the more guys we can get that are strong players, the more we’re going to win.
“He wants to propel himself into the college scene with a positive season. A bad season can change your attitude.”
To that end, Lallemont’s focus is on keeping his Raiders at the top of the Coulee Conference. Arcadia, which is coming of a 12-1 season in which they advanced to the WIAA Division 5 state semifinals before falling to eventual-champion Amherst, is replacing a very talented class of players that helped it win three consecutive conference titles.
Lallemont and senior teammates like fellow lineman Luke Quinn and receiver/safety Carter Halverson have experience and are ready to make strides in their new roles as leaders and big-play producers.
“Any time you’re a returning player, you’re expected to take a bigger role. You want to allow everybody to make plays, and for me, if I can take on an extra block to help us, that’s what I’ll do,” Lallemont said. “We’ve got great guys here. The class below us has never lost a game before some of them came with us to the Amherst game.”
While the departing group of seniors — it included stars like Jim and Rob Hoesley among others — won’t be suiting up, the attitudes and expectations established in their time is being carried out by Lallemont and the current senior group.
“Aaron Benson, a senior (running back/linebacker) last year, he said when he was a sophomore that that senior class brought everyone together,” Halverson said. “He told me to make sure we’re helping everyone out because they’re going to help you on the field.”
Lallemont and Quinn were instrumental in bringing the team together for workouts during the summer months, especially in July when Updike was busy coaching the WFCA All-Star Game.
“Jake and I created the Facebook page and posted times of when to come out,” said Quinn, whose older brother John was an all-conference player for Arcadia. “Even just coming out and throwing and running routes can help build that bond you need. That bond that lets you know down 7 or up 7, you know you’ve got your brother next to you.”
It’s that dedication to each other and to the classes below them that impresses Updike most about his group.
“They really took the lead on the workouts,” Updike said. “They said, ‘Coach, don’t worry about having somebody telling us what to do, just give us the balls.’ They stayed with it and stayed excited about it.”