OAKLEY — Austin Bedke had kept it a secret from just about everybody.

Only his parents and brother knew where the Oakley senior planned to play college football prior to his signing ceremony at Oakley High School on Monday. His friends, who were awaiting his announcement, tried to speculate, but he said nobody knew except for his three family members.

A loud yelp was released, followed by applause, as Bedke took off his jacket to reveal a Carroll College T-shirt. Moments later, he put pen to paper, making it official, as he’s now set to join the Fighting Saints football team.

“The coaching staff really stood out to me,” Bedke said. “They’re really experienced coaches, really fired up...It’s really exciting.”

Bedke had offers from other schools, like Rocky Mountain College, The College of Idaho and Dordt College. In the end, Carroll was the one that stuck out to him, and, while he’ll play linebacker on the football field, he’ll look into studying health sciences once he gets to Helena, Mont.

The options were there, but Bedke had a feeling of where he truly wanted to go.

“All the schools were super good, all the coaching staffs were awesome,” Bedke said. “It was just something about Carroll.”

Before Bedke made his announcement, Oakley head coach Kade Craner went through the long list of achievements belonging to the senior during his time as a Hornet.

That includes setting the single-season school tackle record as a junior, then breaking his own mark as a senior, while setting the career tackle record at Oakley, and earning numerous individual accolades, including All-State nods.

Bedke never played a junior varsity game, getting the nod at center in his first-ever contest. Craner said he went up against an All-State nose tackle and didn’t have the best performance, but the way Bedke didn’t back down clued his coach in on how special the senior could be.

“He happened to go up against an All-State nose tackle,” Craner said. “He fought the entire game, and that’s kinda what we looked for. He held his own and we knew we had a real football player after that.”

The final record Craner mentioned was slightly different than a statistic or an accolade. The coach said Bedke holds the Oakley record for most athletic tape used during a career.

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While mainly stated as a joke, it’s true that Bedke had to fight through numerous injuries to remain a major contributor on an Oakley team that reached two 1A Division I state championship games while he was there.

“He’s just one of those kids that’s just a super tough kid,” Craner said. “He would never come and tell you he was hurt, but you could tell and he’d just tape those things. You’d ask if he was OK, and the answer was always, ‘yeah, I’m good coach.’”

Bedke looks forward to seeing familiar faces, including one former teammate. Oakley senior Jake Pulsipher signed with Rocky Mountain College last week, and the two could potentially line up across from each other when the Fighting Saints and Battlin’ Bears face off.

Another added wrinkle is that both were recruited from a team playing 8-man football, a level at which it’s far tougher to get on the college radar. Bedke said reality sets in that you might not get noticed, but he looks forward to the opportunity he has been given.

He said he owes a lot to Oakley, his coaches, teammates and the community. Playing for them was a big reason why he taped up those injuries when he could have sat games out.

“We’re just a family,” Bedke said. “Every day in practice, we were pushing each other...It’s just, they supported me through everything and got me here. It got me to where I can play at this level.”

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