BY TEDDY RYDQUIST
Special to The Clarkston News
Clarkston Varsity Football Head Coach Kurt Richardson has accomplished just about everything a high school coach could hope for during his tenure, which is set to begin its 34th season this fall, including helping to mold dozens of young men who have gone on to play at the collegiate level.
One of them is senior offensive Garrett Dellinger.
Even Richardson, however, recognizes the rarity of a player with the skillset Dellinger possesses.
“He’s one of those very special guys that you don’t get very often,” the coach said in a Twitter video Dellinger posted earlier in June announcing his June 24 commitment date.
A starter at right guard on the Wolves’ state title team as a freshman in 2017, Dellinger moved outside to right tackle as a sophomore.
Clarkston returned to Ford Field for a shot at back-to-back championships in 2018, falling to Chippewa Valley, 31-30, but Dellinger’s campaign was cut short by a torn labrum in his left shoulder, suffered in a Week 9 loss to Oak Park.
Undergoing surgery on the shoulder in November 2018, as well as another procedure on his right shoulder in January 2019, he worked his way back and enjoyed a healthy junior season a year ago.
Handling another position switch, this time to left tackle, he took home All-Oakland Activities Association Red honors for the second-straight season.
The Wolves slipped to an uncharacteristic 3-6 overall record last fall, the first losing season for the program since 2002.
“We’ll be a ton better because everyone’s coming back, everyone’s returning, and we’ll have the experience we need,” Dellinger said looking ahead. “This year should be a total turnaround, I feel good about it and everyone else on the team feels good about it.”
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, Dellinger is not only one of Michigan’s top players, but one of America’s best in the 2021 class. A four-star prospect, he is the No. 12 offensive tackle prospect in the nation, per the 247Sports Composite.
In addition to his success on the gridiron, Dellinger also played varsity basketball as a freshman. He had planned to play again as a sophomore, but the shoulder issues knocked him out for the year. He decided to focus exclusively on football as a junior, a decision which proved wise.
“I was kind of on the fence about playing last year, but I decided not to because I’ll be graduating early this year,” he shared. “I’ll be an early enrollee in college, so I decided just to focus on football and academics. My basketball days definitely helped a lot with my footwork and athleticism, it’s something you can’t get in any other sport.”
Holding reported scholarship offers from nearly every national power ranging from Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide to Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish to Paul Chryst’s Wisconsin Badgers, Dellinger trimmed his list of choices to four on May 13.
The reigning College Football Playoff National Champion Louisiana State Tigers, coached by Ed Orgeron, Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines, Ryan Day’s Ohio State Buckeyes, and James Franklin’s Penn State Nittany Lions were the programs to make the cut.
First put in place on March 13, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) recruiting dead period, which prohibits recruits from visiting campus and coaches from traveling off-campus to meet with prospects, is effective through July 31. Fortunately, this unforeseen development did not have too large of an impact on Dellinger’s decision-making process.
“Luckily, I’ve been to all the schools in my top four,” he said. “The only thing it’s really kept me from doing is taking more official visits, but I’ve still been having Zoom calls, Zoom meetings with the coaches.”
While many are giving the Tigers the edge to land Dellinger, the Wolverines have not conceded and have attempted to make this a family affair by offering his younger brother, Cole, a member of the 2023 class, in late-May.
The world of Power Five football is a whole different animal, but the Dellinger family has extensive experience in Division I athletics.
Garrett’s parents, Matt and Stephanie, both played basketball at Cleveland State in Ohio and Towson State in Maryland.
His brother, Matt, a 2012 Clarkston High School graduate, earned three varsity letters in football and four in basketball in basketball. He went on to become an All-Mid-American Conference linebacker with the Kent State.
His sister, Stephanie, also a 2012 CHS grad, was an All-State lacrosse player and joined the Ohio National Guard.
His sister, Taylor, a 2015 Wolves graduate, played volleyball for the Western Kentucky University and rounded out her career last year with Oakland University.
“It definitely makes it easier for me,” Garrett said of his family’s role in this process. “They understand what’s happening so they’re able to guide me in the best possible way, which helps me focus on the important things. All my siblings, I look up to them, and my parents, too. It makes it overall easier.”
Clarkston coaches, who also see Garrett daily, have been instrumental throughout this journey, as well.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “K.R. (Kurt Richardson), Coach Justin Pintar, all the coaches really. I’ve been around them for almost four years now. All those coaches I’m constantly talking to and they give me advice here and there.”
Allowing himself to have the commitment process completed before his senior season begins, Garrett will make his collegiate announcement on his Twitter account, @GDellinger2021, June 24.
Regardless of which of the four schools he picks, Clarkston fans will have a local product to support on national television over the next three-to-five years in one of the sport’s premier conferences.
Garrett and his teammates kick off their 2020 season in the fifth annual Battle at the Big House at Michigan Stadium against Pinckney, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.
Congratulations Garrett on becoming a LSU Tiger!