There was no doubt Dallin Marlnee would end up playing football for an esteemed program.

For the longest time, it was just a question of where.

It was a long, daunting process for him. He had to take into account a lot of factors about the places he was being offered to play college football, but on signing day this week, Marlnee had his mind made up. He signed a letter of intent Wednesday at Augusta High School to stay close to home and play football for the Butler Grizzlies.

Marlnee said he is relieved and thankful for his opportunity to be able to focus on playing football again after such a strenuous decision process. He especially was grateful for all the support he got from his friends, teammates, coaches and family, who all were on the edge of their seats waiting to hear where he would end up playing.

“They were more excited than me, honestly,” he said with a laugh. “I was kind of tired of doing it (the decision process), but I’m glad to be over with it. It was definitely cool, though.

“I don’t really think it’s hit me yet,” he added about realizing he’s officially a college athlete.

Throughout the process, he had his heart set on other schools, including Wyoming, which came after him hard. But between where he would play on the field, the financial situation and several other factors, Butler turned out to be the perfect fit for him.

“They want me to play the mic linebacker,” he said about Butler’s coaches. “That’s what I’ve been playing here. That’s where I want to be.”

He said Butler was surprised a bigger school hadn’t snatched him already, but playing for the Grizzlies has proven to be a consistent stepping stone for football players moving on to bigger schools, including at the Division-I level.

“It definitely was long, and I had a lot of things to think about for sure,” Marlnee said about his decision. “Like Wyoming, I definitely liked it, but I just thought about it more and figured out I kind of want to go bigger than that. If I want to keep going on after this for sure, I think I’ll have better options.”

That’s a very realistic possibility for a talented player like Marlnee, who possesses a tremendous skill set, frame, and a tough physicality.

“What I’ve always said is it’s instincts with Dallin, things that are hard to teach,” Augusta football coach Jason Filbeck said. “Some kids just have a nose for the football, and that’s Dallin. And I think that will transition to the next level. I don’t think the game will be too fast for him for very long because he just analyzes stuff pretty quickly. He’s got a good mind for football, and he likes to hit.”

Filbeck, who helped Marlnee throughout the process, said he told Marlnee he’d try to help him get wherever he wanted to go. Butler is a great situation for Marlnee, who said he’ll be able to get his gen-eds out of the way for two years before honing in on a major. As of now, he plans on majoring in Business.

Marlnee has earned multiple All-Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League honors for the Orioles, and was named All-State this past fall after his senior season. He also earned the prestigious honor of the league’s Defensive Most Valuable Player.

Marlnee comes from a very athletic family. His older sister Casady was a top-flight softball catcher who signed with a school in Texas after she graduated Augusta. Since then, she has transferred to play at Friends University.

Dallin’s younger sister Jayden is the Augusta girls basketball team’s top talent, and she is a state medalist in track, as well.

Who is most proud of all three of their success? Why, their mom Barb, of course. Barb was a great athlete growing up as well, and she undoubtedly passed on her talents to her three kids. They were into all kinds of sports from a very young age.

“When we lived in Leon, there was a big open field across the road from us, and we were always out there playing softball or baseball or whatever sport,” Barb said.

Barb is excited to have a child playing a sport during each of the three seasons. Casady plays softball in the spring, Jayden is playing basketball now in the winter, and Dallin will keep playing football in the fall.

“I am very proud of him,” Barb said. “I’m super excited he’ll be close to home. My kids are all used to me being at every single event. He started little league here (in Augusta) in third grade. For him to start here and finish here is really cool, and with a lot of kids he started with, too.”