SALEM -- Jake Cheeseman had plenty of interest from colleges across the state, but he wanted a challenge.
The McCook Central/Montrose standout was courted by a variety of NAIA schools -- including Dakota Wesleyan University and Dakota State -- as well as Division II Augustana, but the allure of playing Division I football was too much to pass up and he opted to commit to the University of South Dakota on Tuesday.
Although guaranteed a spot on the team, Cheeseman won’t know if he will be a preferred walk-on or scholarship player until his official visit on Jan. 18. Regardless, the Class 11B all-state wide receiver wants to prove he can play Division I football for the Coyotes.
“A lot of people would assume that I would follow the family tradition and go to Dakota Wesleyan and strive to be another great Cheeseman athlete, but I wanted to start a new trend,” Cheeseman said. “Dakota Wesleyan is a great university and it was a difficult decision due to my family history, but I want to do whatever it takes at Division I.”
Cheeseman could have become a legacy at DWU, where his father Craig is a DWU Athletic Hall of Fame member after a stellar baseball career from 1987-1992 and his mother Debra was inducted after excelling in volleyball, basketball and track and field from 1985-1989. His cousin Kynedi Cheeseman is also currently a standout women’s basketball player, which added to the Tiger family tree.
But after setting MCM single-season records for receptions (46) and receiving touchdowns (eight), while totaling 945 yards -- with 253 coming in a playoff win against Stanley County -- the 6-foot-2, 170-pound receiver had a decision to make.
As he moved into the heart of the wrestling season, Cheeseman wanted to make a final decision to alleviate the pressure.
“The stress that was on me with trying to decide, all these coaches calling me and trying to focus on wrestling and school,” Cheeseman said. “It’s an unbelievable amount of stress that was released. I can just have more fun with wrestling. I know where I’m going afterward, so that’s all I have to focus on right now.”
The decision to head to Vermillion also came during a pivotal moment for the USD program. Cheeseman was in the DakotaDome for his unofficial visit when the Coyotes scored a 24-21 win to end a 10-game losing streak against South Dakota State, and the first victory since USD went to Division I.
The Jackrabbits also had interest in Cheeseman, but he went with USD after following the program closer after older brother Cole began attending the school. USD’s renowned biology program was another draw for Cheeseman, who intends to follow his mother in pursuit of a career as a chiropractor in the future.
“Seeing the facilities and the renovation with the dome and the growing culture,” said Cheeseman, listing some of the reasons he picked the Coyotes’ program. “The South Dakota State game was probably the most exciting game I’ve been to and I knew there was something great going on with the University of South Dakota.”