Ottawa High School senior Dalton Graves is happy he decided to play football in his senior year.

He was prodded to play football by several coaches and administrators throughout his high school days, but he was not quite ready to commit to it.

When he did, the game came naturally to him. He played mostly on defense for the Cyclones and caught the attention of Ottawa University coach Kent Kessinger.

“This last year I came up and watched a couple of games,” Kessinger said. “I was sitting with Briley Rivers and started asking him about some of the players. He said ‘you need to keep an eye out for Dalton’. He was a new player. We watched him throughout the season and talked to him a little more.

“He is a big kid ... very athletic. He got interested in Ottawa [University].”

The two became more acquainted. Graves decided to stay in Ottawa and signed Wednesday with the Braves in the OHS library. Ottawa has won three of the past four Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference titles.

“Ottawa seemed like a good fit,” Graves said. “My father wanted me to stay closer to home.”

Kessinger said Graves, who is about 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, will be looked to fill a receiver role in his spread offense.

“He has a lot of talent,” Kessinger said. “Once he learns our system, he could do well. We’ve got a variety of people that fit that mold. We look for guys that can get open in space.”

Kessinger said it not a bad thing to recruit a player with just one year of football under his belt.

“They are like a sponge,” he said. “They will soak everything up. They have not been taught too many bad habits you have to break.”

For Graves, he never would have dreamed he would be a college football player.

“I finally went out for a sport my senior year and I got lucky,” he said.

Graves started to get into a groove early in the season against Louisburg when he scored a defensive touchdown.

“I started getting after it a little more,” he said.

His best performance came in a late-season game against Eudora  when he had 13 tackles.

Graves feels playing offense will be a change and a challenge.

“I did not play too much offense this year,” he said. “I need to put 15 to 20 pounds on before I start to play. Get mentally strong, physically strong and learn the playbook.”

Kessinger said Graves can pack some muscle on his frame and envisions him growing into an athletic tight end or be a strong possession receiver.

Graves said the winning tradition and how the Braves get involved in community projects sealed the deal for him.

He plans to pursue a career as an athletic trainer.