Finding a home

Chandler running back TJ Green is one of several local players who changed their commitment in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's signing day.

The day has come for a few that many dream of happening.

National signing day for college football has become a spectacle that celebrates the high school football players officially signing their letters of intent to play for a college program.

A handful of local athletes are part of the 6.5 percent of high school players across the nation who make it to a college (Division I to Division III) and are expected to sign their letters on Wednesday.

The big name is Mountain Pointe safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, who announced his choice of Southern California over Arizona State and Washington on Friday, Jan. 27, which was live-streamed by the national high school website MaxPreps.

"I definitely knew in my heart after my official visit," Pola-Mao said. "I prayed on it, and that God would lead my path so it would be easy. In my heart, I knew USC was the best fit.”

Williams Field cornerback Tre Bugg, Tempe cornerback Deandre Hughes, Chandler linebacker Sam Pepper and Desert Vista quarterback Nick Thomas are headed to Air Force.

“It’s honor, honestly, to serve our country and get an opportunity to play football at the same time,” he said. “I am excited for it, and the way the Air Force puts it. This isn’t setting me up for just the next four years, but the next 60 as this education and service will set me up for a better life in the future.”

Sack artists My-King Johnson of Tempe and Desert Ridge’s Jalen Harris are headed to Arizona. Johnson de-committed from UCLA.

The Wildcats also secured Higley tight end Bryce Gilbert.

All-Tribune Player of the Year and Chandler running back T.J. Green ended up at Utah after originally committing to Oregon State.

Northern Arizona continues to get very good high school players due to the work of coach Jerome Souers.

Basha wide receiver Terrell Brown, Hamilton wide receiver Chance Brewington and Mountain Pointe lineman Eddie Rivas are among those headed up to Flagstaff.

“The recruiting process really is a crazy thing, but through it all NAU was there always showing love,” Rivas said. “That really meant a lot to me. They gave me every reason to want to be a Lumberjack—from what they represent to having the respect from the players to want to play for them. And to me that's everything. Much like MP, they have coaches that you WANT to play for.”

One of the first players to commit in the 2017 class was Williams Field kicker Brandon Ruiz, but it didn’t stick.

He initially said he’d to go to national power Alabama over the summer, only to change it up and announce on Jan. 16 he decided to head to Arizona State instead.

Arizona State also benefitted from another local player changing his mind as Basha quarterback Ryan Kelley originally picked Oregon but backed out.

The Sun Devils, whose draft class ranked in the 40s according to most national recruiting web sites, also have Highland tight end Tyler Johnson, who missed a good portion of his senior year with various injuries, and Mountain View wide receiver Curtis Hodges.

Some of those headed out of state include Chandler wide receiver Johnny Johnson (Oregon), Queen Creek lineman Mike Young (Boise State), Hamilton offensive lineman Tyler Stevens (San Jose State), Hamilton wide receiver C.J. Jarmon (LSU) and Chandler wide receiver Kolby Taylor (Oregon State).

American Leadership’s Donovan Hanna is headed to BYU and Desert Ridge long snapper Adam Bay is headed to Big 10 country at Wisconsin.

“The recruiting process really is a crazy thing,” Rivas said. “I'm very blessed to say I'll be competing at the next level. Because I know the struggle it takes to get there. Not everything is perfect but putting in the time is worth it at the end of the day. Being able to play another four years is everything to me. It's been the goal since youth football and my Dad was my coach.”

– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or jskoda@evtrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.

– Comment on this article and like the East Valley Tribune on Facebook and follow @VarsityXtra on Twitter.

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