Boys Varsity Football
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Franklin College was the first college football program to pursue Royce Lofton. The Columbus North High School senior was impressed by that, and he recently decided to continue his academic and football career at the Johnson County college.
“They were one of the first programs to reach out to me,” said Lofton, a 5-9, 205-pound linebacker who totaled a team-high 85 tackles with five tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt in helping the Bull Dogs to a 6-3 season that included a Conference Indiana title at 5-0 as a senior.
“They wanted me a lot, so I was inclined to give them a strong look ultimately decided to go there. I like the fact that it is close to home, so my parents will be able to see all the home games. I like how the campus is near the center of town, so there are things to do. And mostly, I liked how the coaches treated me well. I already feel like I am building relationships with the coaches and players. It seems like a very good program, and I am glad that I committed.
Lofton worked with Grizzlies head coach Alan Hensell and assistant coach Steve McNeely in the recruiting process. Even though Lofton primarily was a linebacker at Columbus North, he also played some running back and is open to whatever role the Franklin coaches have in mind.
“We really didn’t talk a lot about position,” Lofton said of his discussions with Hensell and McNeely. “I just decided that I am going there to play football, not necessarily as a linebacker or a specific position. Wherever they’ll need me, I will play.”
Columbus North coach Tim Bless is delighted for Lofton, who also considered Wilmington College in Ohio and Concordia University in Illinois prior to choosing Franklin College.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Royce,” Bless said, noting that Lofton was a senior captain, was voted first-team All-Conference Indiana and won the CNHS team Tom Orr Award for a senior with passion beyond athletics.
“He’s been a great leader in our program, and I’ve enjoyed watching him grow as both an athlete and a young man over the past four years. Franklin College will be an outstanding fit for Royce. The will maximize his skills, and he will contribute strongly to their perennially successful program.”
With the Grizzlies, Lofton joins a program that went 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2019. The fall 2020 season was not played because of COVID-19, but the team is set to open a seven-game HCAC spring season on March 6 against Anderson.
Lofton visited Franklin College in November and finalized his commitment there last week. He unofficially is undecided about an academic major, but he is leaning toward elementary education. Long term, he is interested in becoming a teacher and then pursuing higher degrees so he can go into school administration.
Lofton made note to express thanks to his parents, Brady and Suzan, as well as Bless for helping him be in the position he is in.
“I can’t thank my mom and dad enough when I think about all the time they put in for me and things they sacrificed,” Lofton said, noting efforts related to youth football and youth wrestling over the years. “On the field, my dad has helped put me where I am. And coach Bless, there is no way that I would be in the position I am in without him. He is an amazing coach.”
Overall, Lofton has been thrilled with his experience at Columbus North.
“Columbus North has been a great place for me, both as a school and as a football program,” Lofton said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to change my experience as a Bull Dog in any way.”
Lofton becomes 20th student-athlete and fourth football player in Columbus North’s class of 2021 to announce plans to pursue athletics in college. Earlier, football players Luke Bless (University of Indianapolis), J.J. Montgomery (Marian University) and Eshaan Patel (DePauw University) had announced plans to play at the next level.
A list of Columbus North seniors planning to pursue athletics in all sports in college follows.
COLUMBUS NORTH CLASS OF 2021
Student, Sport, College Choice
Blake Barker, men’s basketball, Army
Mackenzie Barnett, women’s cross country and track, Lipscomb University (Tenn.)
Luke Bless, football, University of Indianapolis
Austin Bode, baseball, University of Louisville
Diing Diing, men’s basketball, Indiana Tech
Reese Harmon, baseball, Iowa Western Community College
Carson Kleinhelter, men’s cross country and track, University of Southern Indiana
Christopher Lee, men’s swimming, Indiana University
Royce Lofton, football, Franklin College
Kyler McIntosh, baseball, Alabama State
Alexa McKinley, women’s basketball, Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)
J.J. Montgomery, football, Marian University
Nathaly Munnicha, women’s golf, Xavier
Eshaan Patel, football, DePauw University
Collin Pruitt, men’s cross country and track, Western Kentucky
Austin Pulkowski, men’s cross country and track, Bellarmine University (Ky.)
Madi Roop, volleyball, Emmanuel College (Ga.)
Andy Stohr, men’s cross country and track, Lipscomb University (Tenn.)
Meghan Waggoner, softball, IU-Southeast
Madison White, women’s basketball, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
PHOTO: Columbus North senior Royce Lofton (8) is congratulated by teammate Hayden McDaniel (4) after Lofton returned an interception for 29 yards at Terre Haute South on Oct. 16, 2020. Columbus North won the game 42-21.