Tom Smart, Deseret News
SANDY — Roughly 40 high school football athletes from across the Wasatch Front gathered at Rio Tinto Stadium today to be honored at the OZone National Signing Day event in the Club Real room.
Most of the biggest names in the state were on hand, including Utah recruits Harvey Langi and Nate Fakahafua, and BYU recruits Baker Pritchard and Moses Kaumatule.
"It was really fun. It's good to see all the players that are going somewhere," said Pritchard. "It makes me feel like I'm in the spotlight. I know my teammates from Bingham who are all here, it makes them all feel the same way."
Such sentiments were exactly what OZone Fit was hoping for when it decided to get involved with the third-annual signing day party.
"We wanted give them a venue that really got them some, not only media coverage, but gives them their 15 minutes of fame and really makes it a big deal for them, because it is a big deal," said OZone co-founder Darin Toone. "We want to make sure they feel really proud about their accomplishment."
With a contingent of media on hand, groups of roughly five to 10 high school seniors were called up on stage to sign their replica letter of intent to the university of their choice. Their official letters of intent had already been signed and faxed earlier in the morning.
BYU's signees were honored first, followed by Utah, Utah State, Weber State, Southern Utah/Dixie, JUCOs and then out-of-state signees.
Of the six BYU signees on hand, American Fork lineman Ryker Mathews was not among them. He's already enrolled in school at BYU. Future teammate Pritchard admits he's a bit jealous.
"I think he's really smart for doing that. I still want to live the high school life, but when I get there he'll already be a lot of steps ahead of me in knowing the players and living the college life," said Pritchard. "It makes me think I should've done the same thing."
Along with Pritchard and Kaumatule, Pleasant Grove's Austin Heder, Jordan's McCoy Hill, Hunter's Ului Lapuaho and Bingham's Kesni Tausinga were other BYU recruits at the event.
Utah signees on hand in addition to Langi and Fakahafua were Cottonwood's Dan Kristensen and Bingham's Seni Fauonuku.
Kristensen said he's envious that Langi graduated earlier and is already taking classes at the U., but he'll be joining him soon. The offensive lineman is finishing up his high school diploma electronically in the next few weeks, which means he'll be able to participate in spring football.
"I'm looking forward to just getting up there, getting the coaches to look at you. It's an extra half of year of work," said Kristensen.
The Utah State recruits on hand were Alta's Austin Albrecht and Bingham's Jordan Hicks, Bridger Peck and Ammon Deforest.
Like many of his peers, Albrecht said today's gathering was the icing on the cake for the recruiting process.
"It means a lot. It shows that they really care for us," he said. "I've been wanting to play at the next level for a long time, and now I finally get the chance."
Weber State recruits on hand were Juan Diego's Jalin Ames, Jordan's Alex Jones, Bingham's Alex Taumoepeau and Roman Valenzuela, and Cottonwood's James Washington and Luke King.
Highland's Desmond Collins (Oregon State) and Cottonwood's Anthony Lewis (Navy) highlighted the out-of-state recruits, while 17 other athletes from Southern Utah, Dixie and various other junior colleges were on hand.
"We really tried to mke it a big event, similar to what ESPN does," said Toone.