Foster Sarell had five hats lined up on a table in front of him — with logos of Nebraska, Notre Dame, Stanford, USC and UW.
The nationally televised scene from San Antonio had been awaited since Sarell entered Graham-Kapowsin High School four years ago. Coach Eric Kurle had said, even then, that Sarell was the best player he had ever coached.
Sarell had already selected his school of choice earlier in the week. But he made it official during the fourth quarter of NBC’s broadcast of the U.S. Army All-American game on Saturday.
He verbally committed to Stanford.
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“For the next four years I am going to be attending ..,” Sarell said as he was handed a hat by his older sister. “Stanford University.”
National signing day is Feb. 1.
“It’s been amazing,” Sarell said on the broadcast. “That’s been my dream school since I was a little kid. I think I just followed my heart and it led me to the right place.”
NBC saved Sarell’s announcement for last. The 6-foot-7, 310-pound offensive tackle was the last of seven undecided recruits at the All-American game to announce.
“That was a little nerve-racking,” Sarell said in a phone interview after spending a few hours signing autographs after the game. “But I’m just excited to get it over with and get on with things. And I had my family and friends who made it all a lot easier.
“It was a really easy decision to make, so I really didn’t have any second thoughts or anything on the stage. It was pretty simple.”
He said he told Stanford coach David Shaw of his decision on Friday night.
The last offensive lineman from the South Sound to commit to Stanford was Puyallup graduate Joshua Garnett, who earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman and was the San Francisco 49ers’ 2016 first-round draft pick.
Sarell had posted a picture on Twitter with Garnett after a visit he took there last summer.
“He was someone to lean on with his experience and hearing what he had to say about the whole process,” Sarell said of Garnett. “But he definitely wasn’t pushing Stanford, he just wanted me to make the right decision for myself. I think he made it really easy for me. He was awesome.”
And 2015 NFL All-Pro lineman David DeCastro graduated from Bellevue and went to Stanford. He, too, became a first-round NFL draft pick.
“Stanford was my childhood dream school,” Sarell said. “It’s where I always wanted to be.
“I’ve just loved how they’ve played on the offensive line and how gritty they’ve been. I always thought Stanford was amazing, watching Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck and all those guys. I always enjoyed them.”
Sarell is considered the No. 1 offensive line recruit in the nation by multiple scouting services, and he’s Scout.com’s No. 2 overall recruit behind fellow Army All-American Najee Harris, a running back from Antioch, California.
On Friday night, Sarell was named the Anthony Muñoz Lineman of the Year by the All-American Bowl, the award given to the top lineman on either side of the ball.
For being one of the most recruited players to come out of the Pacific Northwest, Sarell never treated his recruiting process like the big shot that he is.
He treated it like he was “just a kid from Graham,” as he enjoys saying.
Sarell’s nationally televised announcement was the most self-generated flair he’s created throughout his recruiting process. UW coach Chris Petersen flew a helicopter over Curtis High School to see Sarell when Graham-Kapowsin played there in the second game of the past season, but that was an unexpected surprise.
Sarell generally keeps to himself, content to work out with his friends and teammates, and play golf. He never reveals much on social media.
For comparison, Lake Stevens grad Jacob Eason, the top quarterback recruit in the country last year before he signed with Georgia, had more than 39,000 Twitter followers before his signing day. Sarell currently has less than 3,000 followers.
“I think it’s kind of territorial,” Sarell had said after he was announced as an Army All-American. “I live in Graham, Washington. We’re just a humble town. And I was raised by my parents to be humble, and I have great friends.”
Some other notable athletes from the South Sound to compete in the Army All-American Bowl: Gig Harbor’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins (2011), Lakes’ Jermaine Kearse (2008) and Timberline’s Jonathan Stewart (2005).
Sarell was selected as the 4A South Puget Sound League’s co-MVP alongside Sumner running back Connor Wedington, who also has Stanford among the five colleges he’s considering.
Graham-Kapowsin reached the first round of the 4A state playoffs before losing to eventual state champion Camas.
A Camas coach approached Sarell while he was being interviewed afterward.
“You’ve got some of the best feet I’ve ever seen,” the coach told Sarell. “I’ve been coaching for a long time. Seriously, the best feet.”
Graham-Kapowsin made state each of the past three years with Sarell — a four-year starter — after it had only one trip to state before that (2008). Graham-Kapowsin, of the Bethel School District, opened in 2005.
And now Sarell will prepare for life after high school at Stanford.
It’s another goal he gets to check off of the chalkboard in his bedroom.
But the ultimate one remains unchecked: To play in the NFL and eventually have his bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, in the NFL Hall of Fame.
“I’m just excited for the college experience and I’m ready to go get after it,” Sarell said. “It was good to make everything official and be up front with everybody and be honest about it. That was probably my favorite part.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677