Here’s the 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 to the school of their choice.
What made this year so unusual was all the 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 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. But colleges 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 (they) tell that (committed) recruit to see you later.”
Late movement impacted a few locals who signed Wednesday:
• Victor Gamboa, Washington High School: 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 lost 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 (about) who we are able bring in and sign compared to four or five years ago,” said Baldwin, a Curtis High School graduate.
Finally, Eastern called Gamboa to schedule an official visit for January. A scholarship offer came – and the Patriots’ standout accepted 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 committed to the University of Washington since the 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. UW was 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 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 in the spring, Liufau was firm on heading to Boulder as a quarterback. He did not change, but the circumstances sure did in December.
Jon Embree and his staff were fired after two seasons with the Buffaloes. 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 and Liufau felt better. 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.”
THE STATE'S FOOTBALL SIGNEES
Where the state’s football players signed:
Auburn: Kevin Shelton, Idaho.
Auburn Mountainview: Nicholas Aumua, CWU.
Auburn Riverside: Joe Miles, EWU.
Ballard: Nathan Rauda, CWU.
Battle Ground: Kevin Haynes, CWU.
Bellarmine Prep: Calvin Chandler, Yale; Sefo Liufau, Colorado.
Bellevue: Sean Constantine, UW; Myles Jack, UCLA; Reuben Mwehla, Idaho; John Nguyen, Montana.
Blanchet: Andre Lino, EWU.
Bothell: Darrin Laufasa, UTEP; Danny Wilson, Idaho.
Camas: Roldan Alcobendas, EWU; John Norcross, Portland State.
Capital: Mat Cox, North Dakota.
Central Valley: Austin Rehkow, Idaho.
Charles Wright Academy: Beau Iverson, Yale.
Cle Elum/Roslyn: Jake Gall, EWU.
Columbia River: Remick Kawawaki, Yale.
Curtis: Zach Budnick, CWU; Anthony Davis; Wayne State College.
Decatur: Kevin Young, CWU.
Edmonds-Woodway: Desmond Young, CWU.
Eisenhower: Kolney Cassel, SMU.
Ellensburg: Matt Bennett, CWU.
Everett: Chris Miedema, Idaho State.
Federal Way: Albert Havili, EWU; Zeek McNeal, Fordham; Mike Tate, San Jose State; D’Londo Tucker, EWU.
Foster: Micah Breland, Idaho State.
Glacier Peak: Sean Elledge, CWU.
Graham-Kapowsin: Kahlil Dawson, Portland State.
Hanford: Joe Douglas, EWU.
Hazen: Zach Cable, Idaho; Cody Moorhead, Air Force.
Kennedy: Cole Madison, WSU; Desmoun Thompson, Portland State.
Kentridge: Austin Olson, CWU.
King’s: Mason Friedline, Yale; Billy Green, BYU.
Lakes: O’Ryan Ethington, New Mexico-Highlands; Rhys Gervais, Western Illinois; Gerald Goldwire, Wayne State College; Sammie Long, Colorado State; Marquin Russell, Montana; Kevin Thompson, South Dakota Mines.
Lakewood: Justin Peterson, CWU.
Lincoln: Joshua Eckwood, CWU; Peau Seigafo, Wayne State.
Lynden: Josh Kraght, Portland State; Matt Meyer, WSU; Caleb Newman, Army; Zach Vis, Montana.
Lynnwood: Andrew Basham, UW.
Mead: Chase Collins, Idaho State; Danny Mattingly, Oregon; Langston Ward, Harvard.
Mount Si: Hunter Malberg, Minnesota-Duluth; Tyler Rutherford, CWU; Cameron Van Winkle, UW.
Newport of Bellevue: Isaac Dotson, WSU.
Nooksack Valley: B.J. Salmonson, WSU.
North Central: Jake Hoffman, EWU.
O’Dea: Bryan Butler, CWU; Bryan Carter, CWU; Will Schmidt, Idaho.
Peninsula: Kyle Self, CWU.
Puyallup: Ron Howard, Wayne State College; P.J. Loko, Wayne State College.
Rogers: DeWayne Scott, Wayne State College.
Seattle Prep: Tere Calloway, Nevada.
Sehome: Bo Banner, CWU.
Shelton: David Ajamu, UW.
Skyline: Max Browne, USC; Peyton Pelluer, WSU; Sean McDonald, CWU; Nic Sblendorio, EWU.
Skyview: Jordan Berni, Western Oregon; Willie Lopez, EWU; Jabari Marshall, Northern Arizona; Zach Wallace, Southern Oregon.
Stanwood: Brian O’Donnell, CWU; Kyle O’Donnell, CWU.
Tahoma: Dallas Hayes, Montana State.
Union: Bryce Evans, Southern Oregon; Trent Cowan, Idaho; Nick Henderson, Southern Oregon.
Washington: Victor Gamboa, EWU.
Wenatchee: Cody O’Connell, WSU.
Woodinville: Colter Clinch, CWU.
Yelm: Jacob Swilley, CWU.Todd Milles: 253-697-8442