ARMA — Following an impressive four-year career at Northeast High School, Jake McDowell officially signed on to continue playing at Sterling College on Wednesday.

McDowell’s career with the Vikings wasn’t always easy, but his ability to persevere through challenging seasons and battle through injuries is just a small part of what set him apart from the rest.

“It feels pretty good,” McDowell said. “It’s always been a dream, and I’m just glad it’s actually happening now.”

After completing just about everything he set out to do at Northeast, McDowell said his decision may have been the easiest part of the process.

“It wasn’t a hard decision,” he said. “I had a few other schools in contact, but Sterling gave me an offer. When we visited, I knew it was just a great place to be and I just wanted to be there.”

Leaving for college can be difficult for any young adult, but McDowell’s support system has been with him for every step of the way.

“I’m really pleased and I think he’s made a good decision,” NHS head football coach Phil Hobbs said. “As a coach, it’s always important for us to see our athletes move on to the next level and hope that you prepared him to do so. I’m really happy for him.”

Having coached McDowell for the past four seasons, Hobbs accompanied him on his visit to Sterling and said he has a good feeling about it.

“I think it’s definitely a good fit,” he said. “That was the first opportunity I had to visit a school of that size. I know we had some other athletes go and have visits, but I was able to go with him on this visit and talk with the coaches and those on the academic side of things. For a student to come from a school of our size, it’s a good fit. You’re not going to be overwhelmed and I think he has the capabilities to step in and make an impact as a freshman.”

Off the field, McDowell said he will be studying criminology and is interested in enlisting in the Army.

“[Criminology] just really appealed to me, I love it and it’s what I want to do,” he said. “I plan to hopefully work for an agency some day. The Army is just something I always wanted to do and go out and do my part.”

Although McDowell’s accolades and recognition was earned through his hard work and dedication, he said his team is the biggest reason for his success.

“They have all helped a lot,” he said. “Coach Hobbs is great, he’s been here for the past four years and I’ve looked up to him a lot. He’s helped me so much and I can’t thank him enough.”

Seeing a talent like McDowell leave isn’t easy for any program to recover from, but the underclassmen will have to take what they have learned from him and press on in the upcoming seasons.

“Well, we found out his junior year when he injured his knee that there is no replacement for him,” Hobbs said. “But at the same time, he’s a senior, who is going to move on and we have no control over that. We’ll find somebody and we always find a way to step up and replace as we have players graduates. There is always somebody waiting for that opportunity to arise.”

While the Vikings forge ahead with a few new faces, McDowell’s journey with the Warriors will be one he never forgets.

“I just really want to get my academics down,” McDowell said. “I want to do well in the classroom and prove myself to everybody here.”

— Jordan Buckamneer is a sports reporter of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at jbuckamneer@morningsun.net and follow him on twitter @jbuckamneer.