KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The football program at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa has gained quite a few fans from Park Hill High School in recent months.
That’s because six — yes, six — Park Hill seniors will be joining the NAIA Red Raiders next fall. The Trojans all signed their national letters of intent at a signing ceremony on Monday, Feb. 11.
And all six — Donovan Bustamante, Cole Gonier, Carter Goslee, Jawan Grant, Mark Grant and Payton Stanfield — are excited in one form or the other to have an immediate sense of familiarity upon entering college.
“It’s basically Park Hill 2.0,” Stanfield said. “It’s just high school for four more years. Having my brothers come with me is going to be great. I’ve been friends with Donovan since seventh grade.”
“These guys have fun playing football and I think Northwestern will see that quickly,” Park Hill football coach Josh Hood said. “We’re just excited to see how quickly they get on the field.”
The Red Raiders have qualified for the NAIA playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Northwestern, then-ranked No. 5, finished the 2018 season with an 8-2 record after falling to Dickinson State in the first round of the playoffs.
Bustamante, a defensive back, considered Division II William Jewell and other NAIA programs in William Penn and Midland.
“I had been to other schools before, but this was the first one that I fell in love with so it just felt right,” Bustamante said. “I’m looking forward to jumping in right now to get started.”
Bustamante hopes he can compete for a starting spot immediately.
“They’re telling me I can compete for the nickel spot,” he said. “I’m looking forward to jumping in right now to get started.”
An inside linebacker, Gonier was happy to commit with his high school teammates.
“We’ve all played together for a long time so it’ll definitely be a blast and we should be really good,” Gonier said. “It was awesome to see all my buddies commit.”
“It’s an exciting, long process,” Gonier added. “But then it kinda sneaks up on you. It’s relieving to find a home.”
Goslee, who was known for his back-flipping ability, wasn’t always sure about playing football at the next level.
“I really didn’t expect to play college football,” he said. “I was always looked at as a wrestler and I was getting some looks there, but I just really wasn’t into it. I like football a lot better and the fact that Northwestern took a look at me and I wasn’t even a four-year starter, I was just really thankful.”
Goslee, who started his senior season as a defensive back, said Northwestern is looking at him as a safety.
“I feel I’m definitely a leader,” Goslee said. “Having some of my friends to go to school with it’s just a blessing.”
Jawan Grant, an offensive lineman, picked Northwestern over William Penn, another NAIA school in Iowa.
“I was definitely excited to get the process over,” he said. “And to do that gave me a sense of accomplishment. It’s awesome to go up north with my buddies. It’ll be a good experience.”
Grant, who showed some versatility by playing defensive line in his senior campaign, intends to play on the offensive side of the ball in college.
“I’m definitely more experienced there,” he said with a laugh.
Mark Grant, another offensive lineman, said he’s looking forward to having a high school teammate in his position group at the next level.
“Yeah, it’ll be great,” he said. “We can work together so that’ll be good.”
Mark Grant also considered another NAIA program in Avila, a shorter drive from his home.
“I loved the facilities and the coaches made it feel like a home environment,” he said of Northwestern. “It’ll be great to have friends up there with me. We all talked to each other, and we all decided on Northwestern.
“It felt great to get it over with and that I’m committed up there.”
Stanfield, a wide receiver, picked Northwestern over the two NAIA national title participants — Benedictine College and Morningside — and Culver-Stockton.
“It was a great experience to have the have the opportunity to play at the next level,” Stanfield said. “I’ve been dreaming about it since I was a kid, I had a few opportunities and this was just the right fit for me.”
“On the field all football players are kind of the same. But outside of that it’s hard to connect with people you don’t know.”