Kaleb McGary and his gigantic presence sat in the Fife High School boys locker room shortly before basketball practice Monday when a nearby teammate yelled “Go Dawgs!”
The teammate had not heard the news yet: McGary, a 6-foot-8, 285-pound lineman nicknamed “Big Country” had given the University of Washington an oral commitment to play football earlier in the day.
“I get these kind of sales pitches,” McGary said, “every now and then.”
He won’t need them anymore — McGary, one of five News Tribune “Northwest Nuggets” as the region’s top lineman, chose the Huskies over Washington State and Wisconsin.
The two-way, all-2A South Puget Sound League performer had been slated to announce his decision on signing day Wednesday, but said he woke up Monday with a different plan in mind.
His thoughts kept going back
to the UW, which he said he was taking “a safe chance” on despite not knowing new Huskies coach Chris Petersen and his staff as well as others who had recruited him for a longer period.
“Last night I had been thinking, if I am going to declare early and give any (other recruit) time or help anybody else, it had to be today,” McGary said “I decided to go with UW — an easy choice and smart choice.”
McGary had more than a dozen scholarship offers from big-time programs, including Arizona State, California, Nebraska, Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Wisconsin and WSU.
A few important things initially turned McGary to the Huskies. They were the only school that told him he could play defense. Also, it was closest to home. And while not an agricultural school, their academics still appealed to him.
What threw McGary, at least initially, was the Huskies’ coaching change. In early December, Steve Sarkisian left to take the job at USC and took many of his UW assistants with him.
“They switched it up on me and threw me a little bit of a left hook,” McGary said. “It was hard to get past for a while.”
But the more McGary heard about Petersen, the more he liked — especially Petersen’s overall integrity.
“Nobody said a bad word, or could say anything, about coach Petersen or his staff,” Fife coach Kent Nevin said. “And they were forthright with Kaleb, too.”
McGary said he called both WSU and Wisconsin first Monday afternoon to inform them of his decision, then contacted Petersen. The coach advised him to sit on it for some time, then call him back.
“I mulled it over for an hour, then tried calling him back, but I only had 3 percent battery left on my phone,” McGary said. “I hope he got my Facebook message.”