Local football players convene for Signing Day event
The majority of the state’s college-bound football recruits convened at the Doubletree Suites Hilton Hotel in Phoenix for National Letter of Intent Signing Day on Wednesday. Many of the players know each other from various events and were glad to get together for the occasion. “This is a lot of fun, coming in here seeing all the other athletes ,” said Paradise Valley offensive lineman Patrick Johnson, who is committed to Idaho.
Here are a few of the more noteworthy stories from the event:
* Marcos de Niza defensive back Priest Willis had the social media world abuzz on Tuesday when word leaked that he wouldn’t be signing today. There was speculation that he was backing off his verbal commitment to UCLA and entertaining the likes of LSU and USC, but Willis said it was all a misunderstanding. He was decked out in Bruins gear at the signing ceremony and said he is waiting for his mom to return from a business trip before he officially signs the Letter of Intent. “It was just people making something out of nothing,” Willis said. “I was 100 percent to UCLA. It hit me like, ‘What the?’ I was talking to my mom about it. I don’t really know what happened.”
* Paradise Valley quarterback Ryan Finley has been a long-time verbal commitment to Boise State, and made it official on Wednesday. However, not before Arizona State made a last-second push. The Sun Devils lost their only quarterback recruit, Josh Dobbs, when he flipped to Tennessee on Signing Day. The Sun Devil coaching staff knew Dobbs was wavering on his pledge and inquired about Finley’s interest in staying in-state. Finley, though, said he never considered switching. “They tried talking to me about a week ago or so, but I was going to Boise State, I was 100 percent committed,” Finley said. “I feel as a quarterback you have a lot of responsibility. You can really cause a team a lot of stress if you decommit on them late. I wasn’t going to do that to Boise State. That’s where I want to go.”
* Hamilton defensive back Cole Luke was one of the highest-rated recruits from Arizona this year, but he made his college decision without any of the fanfare afforded to those players. While Willis’ moves were chronicled closely as he announced his choice at a press conference, Luke verbally committed to Notre Dame on Nov. 1 with a simple phone call to the coaching staff. “I’m just not that type of guy,” Luke said. “That’s all fun and games, but regardless if you do it or not, you’re still going to be in the same place in about four years. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’d rather just do it on the low.” Luke said the commitment process was hard with so many high-end options, but watching the Fighting Irish succeed made him feel at ease. “They’re just getting started,” Luke said. “Since coach Kelly’s coming back, they’re going to be up there for awhile. I have no doubt about that.”
* Brophy wide receiver Devon Allen was offered a scholarship late in the process by Oregon and didn’t take long to accept it. The two-sport star will also run track with the Ducks. Allen was already offered a track scholarship to the school which would have forced him to miss the first year of football, but now he can do both. “It wasn’t a huge deal but this makes things a lot easier,” he said. “I’ll be able to play early, hopefully, and run track and have a good time with both.” Allen will finish up his decorated high school track career in the spring. He sprained his ankle in the playoffs and at a postseason All-Star game, but said he should be back to full strength in a few weeks.
* Arkansas made a late push for Kenny Lacy’s services, but the Mountain Pointe offensive lineman stuck with his commitment to UCLA. Lacy said his familiarity with the Bruins coaches was the determining factor. “There was a coaching change so the Arkansas coaches kind of got there late, so I didn’t get a good assessment of them,” Lacy said. “That’s not their fault, but I decided to stick with the Bruins.” Lacy said he made his final decision on Sunday and let the Arkansas coaches know. He joins Willis and Peoria Centennial standout Jalen Ortiz as UCLA recruits from the state. “It’ll be nice to be out there with guys from the same place as you,” Lacy said.