BRADENTON -- Austin Dumas can kick.
Just ask the handful of Sarasota County seniors who were sunk by Dumas’ 49-yard field goal during January’s Brad Price Memorial PAL Bowl.
Or the ask the Marshall Thunder Herd, who were successful in courting Dumas during his visit to Huntington, W.V.
But Dumas can also play a mean game of Scrabble.
Just ask Bradenton Christian head coach Allan Gerber, whose trust in Dumas runs so deep that he’s occasionally asked the senior to watch his kids.
Out go the parents, out comes the Scrabble board.
On Wednesday, Dumas announced his plans to punt and kick with The Thundering Herd, making him the first Panthers football player to sign with a Division I school.
It was Dumas’ leg that caught the eye of Marshall. But it is the player’s heart and head that made him the right guy to blaze a trail at Bradenton Christian, where there wasn’t any football prior to the fall of 2006.
“He does epitomize the Bradenton Christian kid. He’s involved in a bunch of different things, he’s good at those things,” Gerber said, “and at the end of the day, that’s what we all want for our kids. And this is his reward -- to have the opportunity to go play Division I football.”
This is a big step for Bradenton Christian, which similar to other fledgling programs at Saint Stephen’s and Out-of-Door Academy, is trying to make a mark in area stuffed with football tradition.
But it was a big day for Dumas. Flanked by friends and family and schoolmates, and decked out in a Marshall T-shirt with a Marshall banner displayed behind him, Dumas signed inside the school’s auditorium.
It was a piece of history not lost on Dumas -- though, like Gerber said, he is aware there is more to life than he what he did on Wednesday.
“Faith first, family second, grades third, sports fourth,” he said. “I live for sports, but I live for a lot of other things, too. I really have to keep my grades up. Not many people go professional, so I really have to get a degree out of it.”
That’s why he chose to major in mechanical engineering, even though it sounds about as easy as trying to punt a 20-pound boulder in the middle of an ice storm -- and that’s before you factor Division I football into it.
“Since seventh grade, I’ve played three sports every year and been able to keep my grades,” Dumas said. “With only one sport, even though I know it’s going to be a lot harder, I figured I’ll be able to do it.”
Sounds like the perfect Panther to make history.
“There’s no question about it,” Gerber said.