Inside Kadyn Proctor's head as Southeast Polk mega-prospect prepares for Class 5A championship game
PLEASANT HILL — Southeast Polk’s high school football team just wrapped up its practice. It’s Monday night, four days before the Rams face Ankeny in Friday's Class 5A state championship game.
The taffy-colored sky has disappeared, and the field is illuminated by several sets of floodlights. After two hours in crisp late-fall weather, the players' breath stands out against the black sky.
Rams’ coaches call the players together. On one side of the huddle stands a cluster of black jerseys, a sea of white jerseys on the other. There’s a new sort of tradition after Monday practice — a competition between offense and defense.
Tonight’s contest? A dance battle.
"Teach Me How to Dougie," an anthem from 2010, blares over the loudspeakers. Cheers erupt from the group before the song switches to "Fergalicious" then Usher’s "Yeah," before the battle finishes on "Hollaback Girl." The defense won this time. It’s all fun and games, but junior offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor doesn’t like to lose.
Still, during that dance battle, Proctor was his teammates’ biggest hype man. It's hard not to notice a 6-foot-7, 330-pound high schooler jumping in the crowd. He admits he doesn’t have a go to dance move. He’s actually more of a singer.
It’s a small moment of normalcy for Proctor. He has learned to appreciate these moments. In that huddle, he’s not a five-star recruit. He’s just another Southeast Polk football player.
"Having those competitions, they’re fun, they get our minds off the other things that we have going on," Proctor told the Des Moines Register. "It’s just being with our team, kind of like team bonding stuff."
Proctor is the No. 5 junior prospect, but he's still 'just a 16-year-old kid'
In his mind, Proctor is just like any other teenager.
Except that not every teenager is the No. 5 junior prospect in the country and Snapchat friends with Archie Manning Jr., the nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning.
While his classmates worry about ACT scores and safety schools, Proctor already has 33 scholarship options. He holds offers from Iowa and Iowa State, in addition to notable out-of-state programs including Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and USC. He's been a must-have talent since before his sophomore season — before he ever played a snap of varsity football.
And yet, he doesn’t seem to feel any of the pressure that comes with the rankings and the stars and the national attention.
"I don’t really pay attention to it," Proctor said. "I’m just a 16-year-old kid. I do what every teenager does. I’m just living life, playing football."
As mainly an offensive tackle, he doesn’t rack up the recorded statistics that Southeast Polk’s other star players do, but he’s a big contributor to their top-five rushing offense. With Proctor on the field, the Rams have put up 2,336 total rushing yards this season, averaging 194.7 rushing yards and 2.3 rushing touchdowns per game.
Tristan Wirfs comparisons and Xavier Nwankpa talk
Based on his size and production, and the state he lives in, Proctor is often compared to former Hawkeye Tristan Wirfs, who was also considered an elite prospect coming out of Mount Vernon in the 2017 class, albeit not as highly touted as Proctor. He takes it as a compliment, but Proctor also wants to be known for his own accomplishments and make his own college decision. He hasn't been afraid to tell that to Hawkeye fans on Twitter comparing him to Wirfs, too.
"I hear it a lot, that I’m going to be like this person or that person," Proctor said. "I’m just trying to be myself and make a name for myself. Of course, I can look like somebody. But when someone’s saying I am the next (Tristan Wirfs), that sort of means I have to follow the same path."
Proctor is used to the comparisons, and people guessing which program he’ll play for. He shares a roster with Xavier Nwankpa, the No. 43 senior recruit in the nation, and hears the whispers of people saying Proctor will end up wherever Nwankpa goes. He chuckles and shakes his head when he’s asked about it.
"It’s just jokes at the end of the day," Proctor said. "He’s not going to, you know, peer pressure me into going where he’s going to go and I’m definitely not going to make my decision off where he’s going. I’m just being my own self and go through my own recruiting, and I’ll go wherever I feel most at home."
Focusing on winning the state championship, slowing recruiting down
Proctor’s recruiting has slowed down, but that was by his own design. He said he shared his top 12 in September so that he wouldn’t leave 20-some schools hanging, and so he could focus on a dozen schools while leaving time to be a "normal" teenager. That top 12: Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Iowa State, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M.
For now, all his focus is on winning a state title with Southeast Polk. The Rams' only loss this season was to Ankeny in Week 4, when they were without Nwankpa. Proctor says Southeast Polk is a different team since then, and they have the record to prove it, outscoring opponents 313-84 during an eight-game winning streak.
He’ll focus on recruiting again after Friday’s 7 p.m. game, but right now, college football is the last thing on his mind.
"I never thought I’d be here, in this position. It’s a blessing, for sure," Proctor said. "I appreciate everything, but right now, I’m trying to finish up my season, trying to go win a championship with my team."
Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.