Here’s the dirty, not-so-well-kept secret about football recruiting: Nobody really knows anything until signing day arrives.
That day was Wednesday when high school and junior college athletes could sign their letters of intent, and fax them into to the school of their choice.
What made this year so atypical was all the mass amount of reshuffling and unsettled business that went right to the final hours among recruits and colleges.
“Sometimes early on, you get student-athletes who get a little nervous if they don’t commit somewhere early, yet they really don’t know for sure because they have not gone on any official visits,” Eastern Washington football coach Beau Baldwin said. “When it is all said and done, when it becomes January and February, they want to take those visits and make those comparisons.”
That is certainly one side to it – teenagers making rash decisions. Colleges also need to shoulder responsibility at times, too.
“Some schools are really great about once they evaluate a kid and make a decision, they stick with it,” Lakes coach Dave Miller said. “Other schools get their guys and they fill up with 20 (recruits), and it is almost free agency – all of a sudden a guy becomes available that they think is better than their guy, and tell that (committed) recruit to see you later.”
Late movement impacted a few locals who signed:
VICTOR GAMBOA, Washington
The noon hour at school was a time to celebrate – and 100 classmates, teachers and family members packed into the library to support Gamboa, who signed as a receiver with Eastern Washington University.
As recently as six weeks ago, Gamboa – the two-time South Puget Sound League 2A player of the year – had no scholarship offers. As they waited, he waited – and worried.
“I was worried a little bit,” Gamboa said. “Deep inside, I was praying to God, hoping something would come around.”
As bad as it was for the Gamboa, his father, Romeo, was more irked.
“Multiple times, I had to reassure him that something was going to happen,” Gamboa said. “I told him to calm down, that signing day was not until February.”
Eastern was losing its top three receivers, including South Sound products Nicholas Edwards and Greg Herd. The pool of available recruits was deep, and the Eagles were taking their time.
“Overall we’ve become a little more selective to who we are able bring in and sign compared to four or five years ago,” Baldwin said.
Finally, Eastern called Gamboa to schedule an official visit for January. A scholarship offer came – and the Patriots’ standout accepted right on the spot.
“This means a lot,” Gamboa said. “If I didn’t get a scholarship, I don’t know how to pay for college. You find a way, but this makes it easier.”
SAMMIE LONG, Lakes
Every recruiting year has a feel-bad story, which most folks hope turns into a positive ending.
Long had been long committed to the University of Washington since last spring. He was coach Steve Sarkisian’s first recruit to pledge for the 2013 class. Life was good.
But after his senior season, Long began to sense things had changed. The UW was still bringing in more receivers. Essentially, he was being bypassed for higher-profile names.
In January, Long started looking at other options.
“It was very stressful because now I had to find a new home and somewhere I felt comfortable,” Long said. “But that is part of the game. You have to move on and pick up the sticks where they land.”
A motivational phone call from former Lakes teammate Zach Banner, now at USC, helped steer Long back on track. And the speedy receiver decided to take a visit to Colorado State – and liked it.
Late last week, he gave an oral commitment to the Rams, and signed with them on Wednesday.
“I felt extremely wanted,” Long said. “All they were talking about is how they liked me. They were always checking up on me, so that felt great.
“Things happen for a reason, so I guess this was a good thing to happen.”
SEFO LIUFAU, Bellarmine Prep
In charge of keeping the Lions tidy and organized all season in the huddle, Liufau nearly missed the call on his big day Wednesday.
He forgot to bring along his letter of intent to the morning ceremony outside the school gymnasium.
Ever since making a trip to Colorado last spring, Liufau was firm on heading to the Buffaloes as a quarterback. He did not change, but the circumstances sure did in December.
Jon Embree and his staff were fired after two seasons at Colorado. Suddenly, the week of the Class 4A state title game, Liufau wasn’t sure what to do, or where he would end up.
“It could have come at a different time other than the week of the state title game,” Liufau said. “I gave it a week.”
New Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre, who had been at San Jose State, reached out to Liufau first. The two talked about many things. Liufau felt better afterward. And in January, he reasserted his desire to sign with the Buffaloes.
“The new staff is wonderful. I can’t wait to work with them this summer,” Liufau said. “I can’t wait to get out there and start working – competing and helping the team grow and build.”