CEDAR FALLS — Basketball or football. Basketball or football.
That was the debate West Des Moines Dowling wide receiver Sam Ingoli had when it came to deciding which sport to play in college.
Tuesday, Ingoli picked football and specifically, Northern Iowa to continue his athletic career.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Ingoli exploded on the football recruiting scene after a monster senior season for the Maroons, catching 37 passes for 909 yards and 13 touchdowns.
“The biggest decision Sam had to make is basketball was his first love and he was kind of late to football,” Dowling head coach Tom Wilson said. “He kind of evolved as a football player throughout the course of the season and interest started to pick up football wise.
“He was really 50-50 on what he wanted to do. It was which avenue I’m I going to take and football ended up being that avenue.”
Ingoli had been in discussion with both Iowa and Iowa State as of late, and had an offer to play basketball at North Dakota, but instead decided to head North to the Panthers.
“The coaching staff was awesome,” Ingoli said. “With the other schools .. South Dakota, Western Illinois ... Iowa, Iowa State ... they didn’t seem as committed. UNI was fully committed to me and showed they really wanted me.”
Wilson says Ingoli is still a raw football player because his background is more in basketball.
Ingoli caught just six passes as a junior for 69 yards and a score, but Wilson said much of that had to do with Dowling running a run-heavy offense that season where it had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers — Jacob Zachary (1,455) and Cole Deskin (1,065).
“I really think his best football is still in front of him,” Wilson said. “Over the summer he put in more of a commitment to football. He earned the right to become a focal point of our passing game.
“With that big body he is going to evolve more, catch more contested throws and his hands have improved each year. He was a physical blocker, which is huge for us.”
Ingoli played three seasons with the Maroons, one on the sophomore squad, and the past two with the varsity. He missed his entire freshman football season after sustaining a head injury when he was undercut while dunking, landed on his head, and spent 10 days in a hospital recovering.
His senior season numbers ranks as one of the best in recent history for Dowling, the five-time defending Class 4A state champions. The Maroon’s last two star receivers — Matthew Haack (Miami) and Amara Darboh (Seattle) — both now play in the NFL.
Haack holds the Dowling single-season receiving record with 69 catches for 1,294 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013, while Darboh’s numbers were 48-765-11 in 2011.
“I put in the work,” Ingoli said. “I really wanted to help my senior class win another state championship and by helping the team win, in turn, I was helping myself out.”
Ingoli is going to be a Pre-Med major at UNI with a goal of becoming either a pediatrician or anesthesiologist.
UNI is waiting to release its entire list of players who signed until the early signing period ends Friday. Those who don’t sign early can do so on Feb. 7.
Several players announced on Twitter they had signed with the Panthers.
Those players include a pair of tight ends from Nebraska — Caden Houghtelling, from Cambridge, Neb., and Jayden Scott of Omaha, who played at Concordia Omaha. Defensive linemen R.J. Clark of St. Francis, Wis., linebacker Jevon Brekke of Minneapolis and wide receiver Trevon Alexander of Richmond, Mo., also signed.
UNI also added Iowa Central defensive tackle Tim Butcher, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound sophomore who prepped at Manson Northwest Webster, and is close friends with Panther offensive tackle Cal Twait.
“We’ve had about eight defensive linemen go either D-I or FCS since I’ve been here, and Tim is easily in the Top-10 as the best I’ve had (in 22 seasons),” recently retired Iowa Central coach Kevin Twait told the Fort Dodge Messenger in November.
“Tim had a good freshman year and a dominant sophomore season,” Twait added. “He’s been a friend of the family for years. Growing up, he and Cal were best of buddies. They both made each other better (at Manson NW) and they’ll do that again (at UNI).”