By Ben Johnson
TAHLEQUAH — Northeastern State’s football team doesn’t have a talent show planned for the immediate future. However, if it did, Jeremy Applegate would be the odds-on favorite to claim the title.
It would be hard to convince NSU head coach Kenny Evans otherwise.
“The night that (Applegate) committed, he pulled out the guitar and played,” Evans said, “and if you closed your eyes your would have thought it was Toby Keith playing.”
That’s pretty high praise, especially in this state. But it’s been something Applegate has been known for dating back to his playing days at Wagoner High School.
“I told him he has a future in football,” Evans said, “but if that doesn’t pan out he really needs to pursue a singing career.”
With his redshirt freshman season approaching, Applegate said a career in entertainment isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
“Maybe if I get lucky,” said Applegate, who self-taught himself how to play the guitar — more specifically, the acoustic guitar.
For now, Applegate will focus on his tenure at Doc Wadley Stadium. He’ll be thrust into the mix at linebacker once the RiverHawks begin the 2013 season at Pittsburg State on Sept. 7.
However, playing behind seasoned veterans like Langston Jones and Jack Gray could make time on the field sparse for Applegate in his first tour of duty.
“I would like to be on special teams,” Applegate said when asked of his expectations in the upcoming campaign. “I would also like to step in on defense, like if (others) get tired.”
With sophomores Colten Nevel, Cory Park and Donnie Fuston penciled in as backups at all three linebacking positions, the RiverHawks are still relatively young in the middle of the field on defense. Then there is Applegate, who could crack the rotation, according to Evans.
“He’s behind some good linebackers, so he’s waiting his turn,” Evans said of Applegate, who measures in at 6 feet tall while weighing 215 pounds.
“He’s developed in the weight room, and when he gets a chance, he’ll take full advantage of it.”
Perhaps benefiting Applegate the most was spring practice in March and April. Applegate said spring drills superseded his development while on the scout team last fall.
“I learned a lot in the fall,” said Applegate, who recorded a team-high 162 tackles at Wagoner during the Bulldogs’ state championship season of 2011.
“But when spring ball came back around, I learned more in spring ball than I did in the fall. It was just more individual work with myself and getting to know all the plays. That was a lot easier on me.”