Although much of the attention last year during Ponte Vedra’s historic run into the football playoffs was focused on the Sharks’ vaunted offense, college recruiters did not overlook the team’s star performer on defense.
Duncan Van Kouteren became the first of the Ponte Vedra Class of 2018 to commit to a Division 1 program, when he recently announced that he has accepted a scholarship offer from Army. The rising senior set a single season record for tackles with 81, with a career high 16 of those tackles coming on high school’s biggest stage: the state championship game last December in Orlando.
Van Kouteren not only excels on the gridiron but also in the classroom, as the 6’3 210-pound son of Mark and Tara Van Kouteren had numerous opportunities to continue his football and academic talents at a number of top academic institutions in the country.
After a whirlwind tour during the summer, Van Kouteren, who sports a healthy 4.4 GPA, elected to attend Army, where he is planning to pursue engineering as well as play football on Saturdays at West Point.
“Ultimately, the opportunity to play football at a highly competitive level, while getting a degree from one of the best schools for engineering in the country, played a huge part in his decision,” said his proud father Mark. “He also wanted to have the decision made before the season starts so he can concentrate on helping PV have another great season.”
Van Kouteren now becomes the third Ponte Vedra linebacker to play at college’s highest level, following in the footsteps of former Sharks Dillon Bates (Tennessee) and Joe Carter (East Carolina).
Van Kouteren is not only a whiz in the classroom; his intelligence carries over to the football field.
“Our coaches do not call the stunt plays on defense,” said Ponte Vedra head coach Matt Toblin. “We have all the confidence in the world in Duncan and our linebackers to make better calls than us coaches.
“He is unbelievable when it comes to football sense,” added Toblin. “They (Army) can see from film what he can do on the field, but what they don’t know is just how smart he really is. He has conversations with the coaching staff that we don’t even have with the coaches.”
Boasting a storied tradition in football that includes three Heisman Trophy winners, Army improved to 8-5 last year and snapped a 14-game losing streak against archrival Navy with an exciting 21-17 victory. The Cadets than concluded their successful season with a bowl victory over North Texas in Dallas.
Army coach Jeff Monken has turned things around in just his third season as the head coach of the Black Knights. Monken had previously served as the head coach at Georgia Southern, where his Eagles stunned the many local Florida Gators faithful with a 26-20 upset victory in Gainesville in 2013.
The commitment of Van Kouteren to Army is the second Ponte Vedra football player to recently commit to West Point. 2017 Nease graduate Michael Leisle will enroll at West Point this fall as a cadet, with hopes of earning a job as a punter for the Black Knights.
Local fans can get their first glimpse of this year’s PVHS squad when it hosts Fletcher High in a preseason game at Shark Stadium Aug. 18. The following week will see Ponte Vedra begin the 2018 season when it hosts Nease.
Toblin believes that Army is getting a great player as well as an outstanding student in Van Kouteren.
“I’m really excited for him to be going to such a prestigious institution as West Point,” he said.