By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-Most people thought once the Jayhawk Conference eliminated the out-of-state restriction on scholarships that most schools would minimize the number of in-state players that they signed.
Garden City Community College Head Coach Jeff Sims has taken the opposite approach.
"We will build from the inside-out," Sims said. "We will start with Garden City and branch out to Holcomb and beyond."
Sims and his staff proved again that it is not just lip service.
The Broncbusters bolstered their 2017 class with the signing of Garden City High School quarterback Mason Winter. They also added offensive lineman Osvaldo Martinez and Holcomb defensive end Kyol Blackburn. Those three join Garden City's Jesse Nunez, Christian Coreas and Rico Cherico along with Holcomb's Dillon Williams who inked on national signing day.
"We have great football players in this area," Sims said. "We will always bring in the best football players to make our program better."
Winter is a unique story. He played for Dodge City Coach Dave Foster for a couple of seasons before transferring to Peddie High School (a private school) in New Jersey in 2015. Then in December of that year, Winter came back to Southwest Kansas. His family had already made the move from Dodge City to Garden City, so the first order of business for the junior was to make his way to Garden City High School Football Coach Brian Hill's office.
"Mason is a tremendous young man and a hard worker," Hill said. "He knew coming in that we already had a quarterback in place."
With Jesse Nunez already installed as Hill's signal caller, Winter exemplified great selflessness by taking the backup roll.
"I learned so much under Jesse," Winter said during his signing-day press conference. "I knew exactly what I was walking into."
Winter saw limited time during his senior season. He suffered a broken wrist following the Buffaloes' season-opening win over Wichita West. He played in only one game the rest of the year.
"It was disappointing the way it played out," Winter said. "But I know what I'm capable of."
Winter showed tremendous promise in Dodge City, which made Hill's decision to have him as the best insurance policy in the Western Athletic Conference a no brainer.
Now Sims will try and build on the teachings that Coach Hill has already instilled.
"I've gotten the chance to play for two really good coaches," Winter said. "My goal is to get to the next level, and Coach Sims told me he can get me there."
Sims has proven that. He and offensive coordinator Steve Shimko took backup quarterback Petyon Huslig and turned him into a national-championship quarterback. The freshman parlayed that into a full ride to Missouri State.
"Our goal is to get these guys out of here," Sims said. "We don't call it opportunity USA for nothing."
Sims also added to the depth on his offensive line with the signing of Martinez, who was a first-team, All-WAC performer in 2015. He sat out his senior season as he got things in order in the classroom.
"Osvaldo has a chance to come in here and play right away," Sims said. "He showed tremendous progress as a junior."
Martinez anchored an offensive line that paved the way for Jared Koster's record-breaking junior season. The former Buffalo running back became the school's all-time leading rusher before Nunez broke the same mark in 2016.
"Coach Hill has done an unbelievable job coaching his guys," Sims said. "They come in here with a work ethic that they're ready to go. Osvaldo is a prime example of that."
While Sims and company beefed up the offense, assistant coach Sean Cherico took care of the defense by landing Blackburn, a member of Holcomb's state title team in 2015. He was considered one of the top defensive lineman heading into his senior season.
"Kyol is a beast," Cherico said. "Getting him and Dillon Williams was a big step for us."
Blackburn missed a few games because of injury in 2016 but still managed 18 tackles and one sack in six games.
"We are committed to Kansas kids," Sims said. "We are committed to good football players, and we signed some really good ones."