Four years ago Minnesota State Mankato came to Dubuque Hempstead for an offensive lineman.

The Mavericks came back to the same place this fall for a playmaker on the other side of the line.

Cayden Lovett, a three-sport standout at Hempstead and a first-team all-state offensive lineman this fall, verbally committed this month to play football at the perennial NCAA Division II football power next season.

He joins former Hempstead lineman Jack Roussel, a junior who has played in 24 games over the last two seasons for the 2019 national runner-up Mavericks. Lovett said he has known Roussel since he was in seventh grade.

“I had chances to talk with him over the previous year and he’s told me nothing but great things about Mankato,” Lovett said. “He was showing me how they have a winning organization and he said the coaches are top-notch. Only great things about the program.

“It will definitely be nice to have an older guy who knows what’s going on and he can show me around. He already told me he’s not going to take it easy on me, but he’s going to help show me around and make sure I’m getting everywhere and making sure I’m staying on top of my grades and all that, just being the good team leader he is.”

Lovett chose the Mavericks over FCS South Dakota State and D-II Upper Iowa.

“I think they see me as a player who is a team leader and has the work ethic to, no matter what adversity I face, I will fight through it and get done what needs to get done,” he said. “They were out there looking for a defensive tackle and they saw me as a fit for their program. And I couldn’t be happier about it.”

In addition to earning a spot on the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association’s Class 4A all-state first team as an offensive lineman this fall, Lovett was a first-team pick in the Mississippi Valley Conference and was named to the TH’s All-Area first team.

He played center on the Mustangs’ offensive line, helping pave the way for a unit that ran for 1,660 yards, threw for 1,755 and scored 41 combined touchdowns.

On defense, where Hempstead coach Jeff Hoerner believes his ceiling is highest, Lovett recorded 29.5 tackles (24 solo), with 6.5 tackles for loss. He also had an interception for the Mustangs, who posted a 7-2 record, won a share of the MVC Valley Division championship and won their first playoff game since 2010.

“He’s a kid that’s going to work tirelessly to make sure that he’s going to be competing for a starting spot whenever he gets that opportunity,” Hoerner said. “This probably comes from wrestling, too, but he just has an awesome center of gravity. He gets off the ball. He’s really smart, too.

“Sometimes those guys can be really gifted athletically, but he knows the angles to take. He studies his opponents — and I’m sure he does that in wrestling, too — but in football he’s studying what does this offensive lineman do or what does this defensive lineman do and how can I get an advantage there? He doesn’t rely on his athleticism alone. He’s kind of the whole package.”

Lovett qualified for the Iowa Class 3A state wrestling tournament at 285 pounds last season and went 1-2, just missing the medal stand after a loss in the round of 12. He was 29-11 overall as a junior, and has bigger plans for this season. After a pin in Hempstead’s dual victory over Waterloo East on Monday night in Dubuque, Lovett is ranked No. 7 in the state and is now 2-0 after a delayed start to the season.

He also throws discus and shot put for the track and field team.

Lovett plans to get into Mankato’s information technology program. But, he hopes that part of his career can be put off for at least a few years after graduation.

“My dream ever since I was a kid was to play professional football, but you always have to have that degree to fall back on and I think that’s a degree I could get a lot done with in the workforce,” he said.

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