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High School Football: Lakota West defensive standout finds ‘great fit’ at Akron

Lakota West’s Andre Proffitt (56) and Fairfield’s Elijah Hatfield (26) battle it out as they guard each other during their game Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, at Fairfield Stadium. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Lakota West’s Andre Proffitt (56) and Fairfield’s Elijah Hatfield (26) battle it out as they guard each other during their game Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, at Fairfield Stadium. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Lakota West High School rising senior Andre Proffitt originally planned to wait until after this season to decide where he wanted to play college football. His timeline shifted with the recruiting process heating up as sports resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 6-foot-2 285-pound defensive lineman committed to the University of Akron on Tuesday.

“With everything firing up with this COVID thing, I felt it was the right time,” Proffitt said Wednesday. “I went up there (in January), and it was a great fit. It felt like a good atmosphere, good coaches, a good family vibe. It blew me away when I visited, and I knew it was going to be one of the top schools on my list.”

Proffitt was deciding between Akron and Eastern Illinois, which were the two Division I schools that had offered and remained in touch. He never visited Eastern Illinois but felt comfortable making his decision because of how welcome he felt with the Zips.

The idea of staying somewhat close to home also was appealing.

“When I walked in, they all talked to me like I was part of the team, like I had already been there,” Proffitt said. “It felt like I was a big part of their program, and they really wanted me there. It felt great. Me and my parents felt the same way – we all felt it was a great choice.”

Proffitt said his recruitment was helped by participating in camps and combines, such as the Cincinnati Rivals Combine last April and the Columbus Rivals Combine in 2018, but he also credited Firebirds coach Tom Bolden for getting his information and film out to coaches and helping bring scouts in to see him and other players.

Mainly an interior defensive lineman, Proffitt recorded 19 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in eight games last year and 11 tackles in five games as a sophomore in 2018.

Profftt admitted there was “a little pressure” to commit now because he was seeing a lot of other players doing so, like Hamilton’s Malik Verdon (Miami) earlier this week. However, it “just felt like the right time.”

“It definitely feels good to get it off my chest, to be able to focus on my senior year athletically and academically so I am able to do the best I can for West my last year,” Proffitt said.

This offseason, Proffitt has been focusing on trying to improve his strength while not losing quickness. During the COVID-19 shutdowns, he spent time lifting weights at home and doing some running, including hill runs, to keep his endurance up.

West began workouts the first day the Ohio High School Athletics Association allowed them May 26, and Proffitt looks forward to seeing how the team looks as the season gets closer. The Firebirds went from a 4-6 finish in 2018 when Proffitt was a sophomore to 7-4 last fall, earning the team’s first playoff berth since 2014.

“It meant a lot to be a part of such a big improvement last year,” Proffitt said. “You could tell coach Bolden turned the program around. People were in the weight room sophomore year just walking around, doing nothing and he shut that down right away. It was a great atmosphere and we played great football.”

Expectations are to keep building on that this season, especially with the addition of cornerback Jyaire Brown, a Class of 2022 commit to Ohio State who recently moved in from Louisiana. Brown is ranked the No. 3 recruit in Ohio for his class and helps solidify a defense that allowed 20.2 points per game in 2019.

“He’s going to be a great fit for the team, and it’s a great squad,” Proffitt said. “I think we can make a great run at the playoffs and possibly make it to state.”