Iyan Bass packed his bags Tuesday and traveled to Yuma, Ariz., home of Arizona Western College, last year’s National Junior College Athletic Association runner-up in football.
Despite receiving Division I offers from five colleges, the former Jennings County running back, who amassed 6,497 rushing yards in his prep career, moves forward with confidence, believing the recruiting spotlight will follow him to the Southwest.
“It’s not like I’m going there and falling off the radar,” said Bass, who plans to play linebacker in college. “I’m still being watched as much, if not more, than I was in high school.”
Though The Republic’s 2010-11 Male Athlete of the Year had his collegiate options, he won’t disclose all of them. He only gives one name — Ball State — and leaves the other four Division I colleges showing interest nameless.
However, Bass said, after having a conversation with Indiana University assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, he began to consider the Matadors, who have helped produce the likes of current Hoosiers quarterback Cameron Coffman. Since taking over in 2008,
Arizona Western head coach Tom Minnick has helped elevate the program’s status to the highest of the junior college ranks. The Matadors have won three straight Western States Football League championships.
“It’s one of the best programs in the nation,” Bass said.
Bass earned the reputation as Jennings County’s workhorse. The coaches gave him the ball, and he carried the team, running for eye-popping totals of 396, 288 and 181 yards in the first three weeks of last season. Unfortunately for Bass, he couldn’t finish his senior season as fast as he’d started. Bass said he suffered an ankle injury that resulted in torn ligaments and tendons in Week 3 against New Albany.
Still, he finished with 2,407 rushing yards, ranking him third in the state. Bass’ rugged play didn’t go unnoticed.
“He had more than an individual goal,” said longtime Jennings County wrestling coach Howard Jones, who served as a Jennings assistant football coach for 23 years. “It was about more than himself. He wanted to make sure he was performing for the team.”
Bass was a two-time state wrestling qualifier for Jones. His high school career culminated with a fifth-place showing in the 220-pound weight class at last season’s IHSAA State Finals.
“He’s almost like a rock star with kids,” Jones said. “Of course, adults want to be around him, too. But he took it in stride. He wasn’t a gloating performer.”
Jones received a phone call from Bass earlier this week. The understudy told the coach he’d like to see him before leaving for Arizona. Feelings were mutual.
“I’m pretty sure our friendship will last,” Jones said.
It was difficult for Bass to leave Jennings County, he said. But he promises to be back. Southeastern Indiana will always be home, even when his bags are in southwestern Arizona.
“I’ll just miss being able to wake up in my own bed,” he said. “But it’s not like I’ll be gone forever.”
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