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West Delaware’s Carson Petlon signs a National Letter of Intent to play football at UNI as his family looks on. From left, Marti Petlon, Carson Petlon, Lena Petlon, Peggy Petlon and Ben Petlon.

West Delaware standout Carson Petlon signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at the University of Northern Iowa in a ceremony at the high school, Dec. 16.

Petlon, a 6-foot-6 302-pound lineman, is one of 21 players who have announced the intention of joining Coach Mark Farley’s Panthers — members of the Missouri Valley Conference and the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision), formerly known as Division 1-AA.

Petlon — a Class 3A first-team all-state selection this season — entertained offers from numerous schools, mostly FCS or Division II, but in the end, UNI was the obvious choice.

“I had a lot of preferred walk-on offers toward the end, but UNI, Drake and St. Thomas were the only Division I offers. I had some Division II offers from schools like Upper Iowa, but that was about it,” Petlon said.

Petlon felt comfortable with the UNI staff and the style of football the Panthers play.

“What separated UNI from other schools was the coaches. They have a younger coaching staff that relates well to the players,” Petlon said. “I have a lot of trust in their system. It reminds me a lot of the way we do things at West Delaware.”

The West Delaware way has prepared Petlon well as he moves to the next level.

“The community, all the players and my friends have helped shape me into the person I’ve become,” he said. “Everyone has helped me get where I am today.”

West Delaware coach Doug Winkowitsch and his staff played a huge role in Petlon’s development.

“Carson has relentlessly pursued his dream,” Winkowitsch said. “He has worked extremely hard to become a better athlete. He’s a great example for our younger athletes. He has been an absolute pleasure to coach and we are so proud of his accomplishments.”

Petlon had plenty of help making his decision.

“I talked a lot through the process with Adam Reth and people who have been to UNI,” he said. “I just felt most at home at UNI and it’s not too far away.”

UNI’s academic programs also played a part in Petlon’s decision.

“Right now I’m leaning toward a business degree,” said Petlon. “If that doesn’t work out I’m interested in construction management.”

Petlon plans to be on the field when UNI has the football.

“I’ll be an offensive player,” he said. “They plan to use me in the offensive line.”