High school football: Top Utah prep athletes sign to play college football (updated +video)
SALT LAKE CITY — It's national signing day and never has signing a contract held so much allure.
Across the country top high school student-athletes are making their college choices official by signing their names on national letters of intent. It is a moment years in the making, and for most, it's the realization of a lifelong dream — to play college sports.
This day is also highly anticipated by college football fans as they watch the names of hotly recruited athletes appear on official college websites starting at 6 a.m.
Many local high schools choose to mark the moment with small celebrations as some of their best athletes announce where they'll extend their football careers and earn educations with their skills.
"This is really what we want for you," said East head coach Brandon Matich as eight of his players signed scholarship paperwork at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. "We want to win state titles and all of that, but what we really want is to see you go on to college. This is what's important."
East sent two receivers to Utah State — Zach Swenson and John Fakahafua.
"I’m just a country boy at heart," said Swenson, who was decked out in Aggie blue. Both he and Fakahafua said the change of head coach from Gary Andersen to Matt Wells didn't bother them at all.
"I'm excited about it," Swenson said.
Fakahafua won't appear on the college website because he has to make up a math class that didn't meet the NCAA's clearinghouse requirement. It's a class from his freshman year, which he'll take online in the next few months before enrolling at Utah State.
Fakahafua said it was visiting USU that persuaded him to become an Aggie.
"It was a really great visit," he said. "It's a great program, and it's only going to go up." He said one of the highlights was chatting with USU quarterback Chuckie Keaton.
"He gave me some pointers," Fakahafua said with a grin.
BYU landed two East High Leopards: linebacker Patrick Palau, who will serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before enrolling at BYU, and Merrill "Meti" Taliauli, who graduated early so he can enroll at the Y. and participate in spring ball.
"I was planning to go on a mission first, but coach (Bronco) Mendenhall called and asked me to play a year," said Taliauli. "He said it would help them and benefit me, as well. So I'll head out on my mission next January." The nose guard said he's more worried about taking college classes than battling BYU's defensive line.
"I'm nervous," he said laughing. "I heard it's hard."
It's his lifelong dream to be a Cougar, and now it's a reality.
"I thought I'd have a couple of years to kick back and relax," he said. "But it's coming up fast now."
Linebacker Palau said he was "very excited" to finally make his commitment to BYU official.
"I'm still adapting to the reality," he said. "It's kind of unreal. ... I'm still getting used to the mojo of it being a reality."
Meanwhile, left tackle B.J. Tapa signed with William Penn.
"I'm really nervous," he said as his parents looked on Wednesday.