High School Sports

Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarell: The most recruited player ever from the Northwest

It’s simple logic.

“How tall is Foster Sarell?” Puyallup High School football coach Gary Jeffers asked.

He’s 6-foot-7.

“How much does Foster weigh?”

He’s 315 pounds.

“So you have this behemoth of a man, and there aren’t many of those,” Jeffers said. “But then of all the 6-7, 315-pound kids in the nation, how many have the feet, strength, speed and athleticism that are comparable to Foster?”

Northwest Nuggets

It’s hard to imagine one of those exists.

And Jeffers would know — he coached 2016 first-round NFL draft pick Joshua Garnett for three years at Puyallup.

That’s why Brandon Huffman, the national director of recruiting for Scout.com, thinks there’s never been a better prospect from the Northwest than Sarell, the senior left tackle and four-year starter from Graham-Kapowsin High School — regardless of position.

“I would not only say Foster Sarell is the best offensive line prospect I’ve seen from the Northwest, but he’s probably the second-best offensive line prospect I’ve seen in the West region behind Tyron Smith (who is now an All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys),” Huffman said.

Scout.com ranks Sarell as the No. 2 overall 2017 recruit in the country, 247 Sports ranks him No. 5 and Rivals ranks him No. 14.

“He just has tremendous upside,” said Steve Wiltfong, the director of recruiting for 247 Sports. “He has the frame, athleticism and toughness to ultimately be the first pick in the NFL draft someday.”

But just what do all these national recruiting experts mean when they gush over the Stanford University commit’s potential?

Graham-Kapowsin coach Eric Kurle held a film-room session with The News Tribune to illustrate it. He played the game tape of G-K’s game against 4A South Puget Sound league rival Puyallup, when the Eagles won, 71-43, on Oct. 7.

 
Graham-Kapowsin's Foster Sarell was pursued by most of the nation's top college powerhouses for his size, dexterity and strength as an offensive lineman. Drew Perine dperine@thenewstribune.com

The defensive end tries to race around Sarell.

“Just watch how quick his feet are for a 320-pound guy,” Kurle says. “Watch how he moves his feet.”

Sarell has 70 pounds on the rusher. He first punches his right arm against the defensive tackle as he shuffles backward, and Sarell moves so quickly that he still has plenty of time to stay in front of the speedy end.

Sarell ends the battle by shoving him 5 yards into the backfield.

That punch to the tackle was called a post hand.

“In college that’s a big deal,” Sarell said. “They talk about that a lot.”

It’s a part of his game that he’s refined over the past two years. Most of Sarell’s success has come from his sheer size and athleticism.

But it was in his junior year that he said he really began to understand when to make calls at the line of scrimmage, thanks to Kurle. And Sarell learned much of his technique, he said, by working with former New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns lineman LeCharles Bentley.

Sarell met Bentley in this past offseason at The Opening, a camp held at the University of Oregon that is comprised of most of the top high school recruits in the nation.

“I learned a lot from him,” said Sarell, a U.S. Army All-American. “There aren’t a lot of offensive line gurus in Washington, so learning from LeCharles Bentley really helped me.”

Mike Farell, the national director of recruiting for Rivals, wrote that Sarell’s performance at The Opening “was one of the best in the history of the event.”

But if he’s anything like Garnett, then most of his mental maturity will come from his experience at Stanford and working with offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren.

Jeffers said that Garnett only had to show up and compete at Puyallup High School and he was going to have success. But 4A SPSL defensive linemen aren’t the same as those in the Pac-12.

“Josh was a big guy in a little pond here,” Jeffers said. “And clearly nobody in the SPSL was giving Foster too much of a run for his money, either.

“But when (Sarell) shows up at Stanford that will change with coach Bloomgren and what they do. The cream will rise to the top, and Foster will get pushed and it will make him better than he already is, for sure.”

 
Sarell has a list of football-related goals on a chalkboard in his bedroom. After recently playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, a showcase for the nation's top high school talent, he was able to check on off. Drew Perine dperine@thenewstribune.com

Sarell is the backside blocker, so he’s hunting for linebackers or safeties.

He jumps off the line so fast that he runs by the Puyallup safety playing inside the box before he realizes there’s nobody to block in the third level of the defense.

So he displays his unique athleticism.

Sarell is two steps behind the safety after passing him. But he adjusts, turns around and levels him to the turf — all before Graham-Kapowsin running back Micah Smith has burst through the hole.

“He runs by the guy at 320 pounds or 315, depending on what cheeseburger he ate that week,” Kurle says, “and he still gets back on that and adjusts even though he missed.”

Sarell is by far the largest member of his family. His older sister, Naomi, is 5-foot-4.

Sarell posed for a picture with Garnett the summer before entering his junior year of high school, just before Garnett’s senior campaign at Stanford.

Even in that photo, Sarell, who has size 18 shoes, was bigger than Stanford’s 2016 Outland Trophy winner.

His father, Ryan Sarell, is a 6-foot-2 Puyallup graduate and former baseball player. He took his then 2-year-old son to a doctor’s appointment, where they would speculate how large Foster might eventually become.

“The lady looks at us and says he’s going to be 6-7 or 6-8,” said Ryan Sarell, who is a real estate developer. His wife, Pam, is a teacher at Rogers High School in Puyallup. “We’re like, ‘What?’

“But sure enough …”

They put Foster in all kinds of sports. He was a pitcher and first baseman in Little League. He played soccer, football and dominated in basketball, traveling across the country, playing AAU basketball for Team Brandon Roy.

Foster attributed his footwork to hours on basketball courts. But it took time, especially because he had developed hammer toes. His feet grew so fast that his parents weren’t keeping up with buying him the right-sized shoes.

“He couldn’t run,” Ryan Sarell said. “He was big and awkward.”

Foster started on G-K’s basketball team his freshman year, but stopped playing after that.

Instead, he’s spent his winters training at Edge Fitness in Puyallup and continued to develop his footwork and agility under trainer Bryan Petersen.

“First and foremost, his footwork and athleticism are God-given,” Ryan Sarell said. “But he took that ability and cultivated it through playing a lot of sports, mainly basketball, growing up.”

Puyallup stacks the goal line and a 290-pound defensive tackle knifes through, head down, on the backside of the run.

Sarell is pushed a step back, but he sits low and tosses the lineman to the ground, finishing in a chair-like position as Smith bounds into the end zone on the right side of the play.

“You might think, ‘Well, that’s not much of a block,’ but that’s a great block,” Kurle says. “That is what stops a goal-line play, is the backside guys knifing through the A and B gaps.

“Foster cuts that off and he’s physical enough to stop him from going, even when the big guy has full momentum. He’s strong enough to do that.”

It’s easy to compare Foster Sarell with Garnett and Lakes’ grad Zach Banner, considering how dominant they were and that they all grew up in the South Puget Sound.

But Huffman remembers his first impressions of each quite differently. He said he saw Garnett in the eighth grade and how large and strong he was and figured he’d be a good high school player.

He saw Banner, who is listed at 6-foot-9, 360 pounds as he prepares for the NFL draft out of USC, as a freshman on the Lakes’ sideline.

“I remember saying, ‘Boy, if that kid can just walk and chew gum at the same time he had a chance,’ ” Huffman said.

But Sarell?

“With Foster, you just went, ‘Oh, my goodness. Look at that footwork,’ ” Huffman said. “He had refined footwork and technique as a freshman. It was like watching a polished power forward on the football field because he moved so well. You don’t see that in a lot of college linemen, let alone high school, and certainly not freshmen in high school.

“Foster was a guy that as a freshman, you were like, ‘franchise left tackle,’ even then. Foster was as close to a no-brainer as I’ve seen — at any position.”

Lakes coach Dave Miller said one of Sarell’s challenges will be to continue to not let all the hype he’s garnered since he walked into G-K’s halls get to his head.

“He seems like he’s handling it all pretty well,” Miller said. “Most kids don’t know how to handle that. But from what I’ve seen he’s got a good head on his shoulders — much like Zach.”

 
Sarell, second from left, walks to class at Graham-Kapowsin High with his buddies Beau Blowers, from left, Rodney Hubbard and Devin Jones. Drew Perine dperine@thenewstribune.com

It didn’t seem fair.

Sarell makes the call at the line of scrimmage that he’s going to down block and crush a defensive tackle. He blocks with such explosion and strength that the defender is on the ground just as Smith hits the gaping hole.

“Watch him drop his hips and explode upward,” Kurle said. “That’s what you want to do.

“That opens up because of what Foster can do, getting some push on a big guy like that.”

But has Kurle ever seen a lineman, that large with that kind of explosiveness off the line?

“No,” he said.

Graham-Kapowsin quarterback Dylan Morris was the team’s ball boy when he first began to hear about Sarell. Then Sarell earned a starting spot on the offensive line as a freshman alongside Morris’ older brother, center Tyler Morris.

“(Tyler) would say that Foster was a freak,” Dylan Morris said. “He was just manhandling people as a freshman and was bigger than them already.”

“He’s been a freak since middle school,” said Smith, the junior running back. “He was the best offensive lineman they had as a freshman. It’s crazy — senior offensive linemen were looking up to a freshman.”

Morris is one of many on the team who call Sarell “Fozzy Bear” because of how gentle he is off of the field.

“During the season you are just playing football, but as the season is over and he’s leaving for college, it’s hard to realize I got to play with such a good player like Foster,” Morris added.

“I mean No. 1 offensive lineman in the country — you just don’t see that in him because he doesn’t act like that at all.”

Just as big as Sarell’s size, strength, speed and athleticism is his will to be great, Kurle said.

“He knows how to pull, he knows how to step and he knows how to run block and pass block, and he knows how to study the game,” Kurle said. “I can only give him a sea level of that, but the time Stanford is going to have him spending on football is going to take him to another level.

“And he’s a guy who is going to do it. He’s a guy who I have no doubt in my mind knows he wants to be great.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677

@TJCotterill

All-time Northwest Nuggets — offensive linemen

The News Tribune produced its inaugural Northwest Nuggets in 1988. Here’s a look at all of the linemen selected since then.

1988

OL Todd Bridge, Montesano (UW)

OL Rick Grunden, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (Colorado)

OL Ben Lane, Marysville-Pilchuck (Georgia)

OL Kian Ramsay, Dallas, Ore. (USC)

OL Mike Stowell, Toppenish (WSU)

1989

OL Brian Cassidy, Beaverton, Ore. (Stanford)

OL Glen Cavanaugh, Spokane/Gonzaga Prep (Stanford)

OL Steve Hoyem, Boise (Stanford)

OL Matt Jose, Idaho Falls, Idaho (Oklahoma State)

OL Pete Pierson, Portland/Douglas (UW)

OL Matt Redden, Sweet Home, Ore. (BYU)

OL Steve Wolfe, Puyallup (WSU)

1990

OL/DL Randy Brock, Rexburg, Idaho/Madison (BYU)

OL Josh Dunning, Eatonville (WSU)

OL Steve Hardin, Snohomish (Oregon)

OL Heath Howington, Roseburg, Ore. (Oregon)

OL Leif Jacobsen, Palmer, Alaska (Oregon)

OL Eric Ness, South Kitsap (WSU)

OL Andrew Peterson, South Kitsap (UW)

1991

OL Ryan Leahy, Yakima/Eisenhower (Notre Dame)

OL Kyle Ramsay, Salem, Ore./McKay (USC)

1992

OL Ron Asboe, Canby, Ore. (Oregon)

OL Eric Herrling, Lakeridge, Ore. (Stanford)

OL Lynn Johnson, Des Moines/Mount Rainier (UW)

1993

OL Jason McEndoo, Aberdeen (UW)

OL Yauger Williams, University Place/Curtis (Cal)

1994

OL Aaron Dalan, Sequim (UW)

OL Brad Hutt, Woodinville (Air Force)

OL Chris Lang, Bremerton (UW)

OL Paul Mickelbart, Everett/Cascade (Notre Dame)

OL Benji Olson, Port Orchard/South Kitsap (UW)

OL Rob Rainville, Lewiston, Idaho (WSU)

OL Tony Coats, Port Orchard/South Kitsap (UW)

1996

OL Chad Ward, Finley/River View (UW)

OL Marques McFadden, Boise/Capital (Arizona)

OL Zach McCall, Tacoma/Lincoln (UW)

OL Travis Claridge, Vancouver/Fort Vancouver (USC)

OL Ben Archibald, Seaside, Ore. (BYU)

1997

OL Victor Rogers, Federal Way/Decatur (Colorado)

1998

OL Mike Kuykendall, Bend, Ore. (Oregon State)

OL Mike Belisle, Coos Bay, Ore./Marshfield (Oregon)

1999

OL Bryce Bohlander, Keizer, Ore./McNary (UCLA)

OL Dan Major, Redmond (Colorado)

OL/DL Jeremey Williams, Spokane/Ferris (WSU)

2000

OL Dan Dicks, Bellevue (UW)

2002

OL J.C. Ronnfeldt, Federal Way/Decatur (Oregon State)

OL David Beall, Vancouver/Mountain View (Stanford)

2004

OL Aaron Klovas, Spanaway Lake/Bethel (Oregon)

OL Andy Roof, Spokane/East Valley (WSU)

2006

OL Cody Habben, Sammamish/Skyline (UW)

OL Stephen Schilling, Bellevue (Michigan)

OL Bo Thran, Gresham, Ore./Barlow (Oregon)

2008

OL Senio Kelemete, Seattle/Evergreen (UW)

OL David DeCastro, Bellevue (Stanford)

OL Nick Cody, Hockinson (Oregon)

2009

OL Charles Siddoway, Eugene, Ore./Sheldon (Cal)

2012

OL Zach Banner, Lakewood/Lakes (USC)

OL Walker Williams, Tacoma/Tacoma Baptist (Wisconsin)

OL Joshua Garnett, Puyallup (Stanford)

OL Isaac Seumalo, Corvallis, Ore. (Oregon State)

2013

OL Brayden Kearsley, Aloha, Ore. (BYU)

OL Evan Voeller, West Linn, Ore. (Oregon)

2014

OL Kaleb McGary, Fife (UW)

2015

OL Henry Roberts, Bellevue (UW)

OL Tristen Hoge, Highland, Idaho (Notre Dame)

2017

OL Henry Bainivalu, Sammamish/Skyline (Washington commit)

OL Foster Sarell, Graham/Graham-Kapowsin (Stanford commit)

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