There are thousands of high school varsity athletes in the nine-member Elk Grove Unified School District, the fifth-most populated district in the state.
Only 20 of signed collegiate national letters of intent Wednesday morning in football and soccer, drawing an overflow crowd for a signing ceremony at the district office. The gathering included coaches, family, administrators, teachers and teammates, and of course the athletes who gave a collective sigh of accomplishment and relief.
“That tells you all you need to know about just how hard this is to do,” EGUSD Athletic Director Rod Edmiston said, addressing the student-athletes seated at tables. “It took a lot of hard work to get to this point. The next four years will mean even more hard work.”
It was quite a morning for Franklin, which had six soccer players – Ele Avery (Fresno State), Taylor Marti (Stanislaus State), Erica Mendoza (Irvine), Cameron Porter (Navy), Haileigh Rose (UC Davis) and Sara Stralen (Stanislaus State) – sign scholarships. Sacramento State received letters from two soccer players – Antonio Andres of Pleasant Grove and RJ Moorhouse of Cosumnes Oaks.
A total of seven players from the district signed letters, including defensive back Damario Mclean and tight end Gavin Reinwald of Elk Grove, signed with Hawaii and Cal, respectively. Defensive back Robert Holt of Monterey Trail is headed to Portland State, defensive back Jarrod Green of Cosumnes Oaks is off to Utah State, defensive back Dawson Weber of Pleasant Grove will play at North Dakota State. Wide receiver Alex Cook will play at Washington and lineman Ravontae Holt of Sheldon will suit up Wyoming.
Reinwald initially gave a verbal commitment to Hawaii, but Cal, with a new coaching staff, changed his mind last week. A 4.0 grade-point average student, Reinwald said he is thrilled to call Berkeley home.
“I’m happy with Cal,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m so excited to play in the Pac-12 and to get the No. 1 education in the United States.”
But it wasn’t easy explaining to Hawaii coaches his desire to go to Berkeley, part of the anxiety that goes with the process.
“Last week was stressful with the Cal offer, trying to tell the Hawaii coaches that I’m not going (to Honolulu),” Reinwald said. “The recruiting process is stressful.”
Cook, Sheldon’s wide receiver, committed early in the season to Washington. He said he was drawn to the school, the football program and coach Chris Petersen, a UC Davis graduate.
“He’s a great coach,” Cook said. “When you say, ‘Coach Pete’s name, you think, ‘Oh, playing for that guy!’ ”
And there’s the added bonus of catching passes from another big name – Jake Browning, a Folsom graduate who tossed 43 touchdowns last season and helped the Huskies reach the College Football Playoffs.
Cook said being “humble” is the key to dealing with recruiting.
“I always preach: trust the process,” he said. “Keep up the education, be a nice guy to everybody. It really does (pay off).”
Weber is proof that recruiters don’t factor in wins and losses nearly as much as ability, drive and grades. Weber earned Bee All-Metro honors despite his Pleasant Grove team going 0-10, though most games were competitive. He initially was headed to Sac State but switched to the Bison of Fargo, N.D.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Weber said of the recruiting process. “To sign and get it over with feels great. It was a tough year (for Pleasant Grove). We fought every game and never gave up. It’s about effort and perseverance. Don’t give up. Always give it your all.”
Sheldon football coach Joe Cattolico addressed the crowd after being the last coach to introduce his athletes.
“Be prepared that at some point, your (playing time) will end,” he said, stressing the importance of a college education and life after athletics.