An elite athlete from Ohio committing to play football for Ohio State is no surprise.

But Dallas Gant didn’t grow up in Toledo idolizing the Buckeyes. He was a Michigan State fan.

And football wasn’t always his first choice. He grew up loving baseball, then switched to basketball in seventh grade. But once Gant got older and it became clear to him that his athletic future was in football, his eventual landing at Ohio State became an easy decision.

“It was the best choice for me personally, with the school and the location and what they do with their program and what they expect their guys to be,” Gant said.

He is projected as an outside linebacker, and the Buckeyes’ history at that position helped sway him.

“That was a big factor,” Gant said. “Anybody who wants to be an NFL linebacker should go there. It’s pretty evident to me.”

Last week, Gant had 11 tackles for St. John’s Jesuit, and he also caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. The Titans are only 4-4, but Gant is doing all he can. St. John’s coach Larry McDaniel said his team has only two senior starters on defense and starts a freshman at quarterback.

“A lot of the scores we’ve had offensively have been Dallas — the mismatches he has created with defenders,” McDaniel said. “Some of our key victories, Dallas was the catalyst. We’ve really leaned on him.”

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Gant leads St. John’s with six receiving touchdowns and has 45 tackles, including five sacks.

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“He has everything you would want,” McDaniel said. “He’s long, he can run, he’s savvy.”

Though this is McDaniel’s first season at St. John’s, he had heard about Gant’s talent. He said he has been more impressed with him as a person.

“He’s a very well-grounded kid,” McDaniel said. “He’s not a kid with a huge ego. Very much being into the school and what the school represents — being a man for others.”

He said Gant is the type of person you would want your daughter to date and your son to emulate. McDaniel described him as an “introverted extrovert.”

“He’s cerebral,” he said. “He thinks. He can be by himself and process things. But when it’s time to be out in front and be vocal, he can do that. He possesses the best of both worlds. He relates to everybody.”

Gant’s mother, Rhonda Kimmons, is a high school principal and his father, James Gant, is chief business manager for Toledo Public Schools, so it’s not surprising that Gant excels academically with a 3.8 GPA.

“When I was younger, they drilled it into me pretty well,” he said, “but over the years they’ve realized my grades are good and I take care of my stuff.”

Gant will be joining a top-ranked 2018 recruiting class and a linebackers unit that figures to be stacked with young talent.

“I can’t wait to get down there and compete with great guys and see where I stack up,” he said. “If it takes me a couple years to play, I just have to keep competing.”

McDaniel said that Gant is versatile enough to play either side of the ball.

“He has done more offensively this year than most people would have assumed,” McDaniel said. “He would be a mismatch nightmare as a tight end. With his size and speed and intellect, he can go down there and help them in any way they need.”

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch