LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Earlier this month, John Waggoner measured himself against some of the top prospects in the region here at the Opening Chicago. As we wrote about then, he showed that he belonged.
“It was a good day,” the West Des Moines Dowling Catholic defensive end told HN. “I got to compete against some of the top prospects in the nation and had a chance to get better.
“I thought I did alright. I could have done a little better but it was good to get out here and compete. I learned some new technique from the coaches here. It was good.”
The Opening Chicago represented more evidence that Waggoner (6-6, 241) ranks among the top prospects in the Midwest and the No. 1 recruit in Iowa. He’s continued to steadily pile up impressive scholarship offers. This week alone, he landed opportunities from Oklahoma, LSU and Penn State.
Waggoner has entered into the elite class of in-state prospects of recent vintage. He’s joined guys likes of Ross Pierschbacher, Amara Darboh and Oliver Martin, who also boasted a who’s who list of offers.
“I don’t think I’ve wrapped my head around it completely because you don’t really see that around Iowa too often. When you have that, it’s pretty exciting,” Waggoner said.
With the attention comes a departure from normalcy. Coaches and media desire your attention. Trying to travel the country to see campuses becomes much more challenging.
“It’s getting pretty crazy. I’m just trying to get around and see as many places as I can. I’m still working on my schedule. We’ll see where I’ll be next,” Waggoner said.
Iowa fans have expressed angst over Waggoner. They’ve feared he’ll follow in the footsteps of Pierschbacher, Darboh and Martin out of the state.
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Waggoner isn’t focusing on prestige when it comes to looking at colleges.
“When I go on my visits, I just try to get a feel for the program and the culture of the program. It’s really all about how I fit into that program not how flashy or how big of a name the program has,” he said.
Iowa offered Waggoner on Sept. 1. It came second to Iowa State’s opportunity in June. Minnesota, Michigan, UCLA, Indiana, Oregon, Florida, Ohio State, Penn State, LSU and Oklahoma have followed.
The Hawkeyes played host to Waggoner for multiple games at Kinnick Stadium in the fall. He was back for Junior Day last month.
“I really like the coaching staff there. They’re really genuine people. They’re not going to tell you a lie or promise you anything. They’re just going to be real with you. I really like that about their staff. And then their culture is a family culture, which I really like. I could definitely see myself at Iowa,” Waggoner said.
With so much to sort through, Waggoner isn’t rushing his decision. He has no timeline for a choosing a school, he said.
“It would be nice to get it done before my senior year but if I don’t really know at that point then I’m not going to make a rash decision just to get it out of my head,” Waggoner said.
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Waggoner said that he’s open in terms of a college major at this point. He’s considering Engineering and Business but could go in a different direction.
Dowling Coach Tom Wilson has encouraged Waggoner to talk with fellow Maroon, Darboh, about his recruiting experience. The receiver considered Iowa before ending up at Michigan. Martin also picked the Wolverines while Pierschbacher ended up at Alabama.
“I know someone that just gave me Oliver’s number and he wanted me to reach out to him to get some feedback on his process and how he handled it. I’m trying to find out as much as I can about the process from as many people as I can,” Waggoner said.
As a junior, Waggoner earned first-team all-state honors from the Iowa Newspaper Association. He finished with 27 tackles (12.5 for loss) and eight sacks. He also recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.
Rivals ranks Waggoner as the 16th best weak-side defensive end nationally in the 2018 recruiting class. Scout sees him as the No. 19 D-End and 247 puts him at No. 6 among weak-side defensive ends.