The signing of any recruit is often the culmination of my years of recruitment. While some recruits are only identified just months before signing day, the great majority of those signed are identified long before.
Most of BYU’s signees are offered scholarships between their junior and senior seasons in high school. A few of them are identified as being great fits for the program from an academic, social and athletic standpoint before their junior seasons, however.
BYU doesn’t often offer athletes before their junior seasons, but when they do, those that accept that offer almost always pan out. Since he became to BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall the short-list of eventual signees that were offered before their junior year were Jake Heaps, Ross Apo, Ryker Mathews, Adam Hine, Craig Bills, Austin Holt, Baker Pritchard, Austin Heder and Manoa Pikula.
For this coming recruiting year, the Cougars extended an offer very early to a prospect clear across the country Atamu (Adam) Ah Ching from Greer, S.C. He’s a 6-foot-0, 220-pound inside linebacker who has been on BYU’s radar for a very long time.
He first caught the coach’s attention when he made the long trip from South Carolina to BYU’s summer camp before his freshman season. It was his first visit to BYU and he immediately took to the place.
“The mountains, wow, that’s the first thing that you notice, they’re huge,” he recalled. “I also liked the feel of the place. BYU just has a good feeling about it. The coaches, especially Coach (Paul) Tidwell, he was great. He worked me out a lot and I credit a lot of the success I had my first year playing to the things he taught me during camp.”
Ah Ching played regularly and apparently did enough between his first camp visit to the one the following year to be granted a very early offer.
“It blew me away because I was so young at the time,” he recalled about receiving an offer before his sophomore season. “I really wasn’t expecting it, but coaches let me know that they wanted me to come to BYU and would have a scholarship for me.”
During that camp session between his freshman and sophomore years was when he first met his good friend and fellow BYU recruit Butch Pau’u. Pau’u (6-0, 21)0 hails from Servite High School in Anaheim, Calif., and the two have since become fast friends.
“We text each other all the time,” Ah Ching said. “He’s a linebacker, just like me and we play a lot a like. We talk all the time about playing together in college. I love that he has a BYU offer as well, and we’d definitely love to play together at BYU.”
Ah Ching started his sophomore year and has been a mainstay at middle linebacker for his varsity team ever since. He accounted for more than 150 tackles last season while garnering first-team all-state honors.
Since his first offer from BYU, many other schools have followed suit. He now has offers from Georgia Tech, Colorado, Oregon and Utah. He’s considering every offer he has on the table and likes certain aspects of each of them.
— On Georgia Tech, “I like their atmosphere a lot. It’s close to home and I love how they play and I really like that they’ll honor my mission plans. They have a great program with great coaches.”
— On Colorado, “I absolutely love Coach Cabral who is the linebackers coach there. I’ve known him for a long time, meeting him at the All-Poly camp, and he’s someone I have a ton of respect for. He calls me constantly and I’d love to play for him.”
— On Oregon, “I love their uniforms and their facilities are simply amazing. I love their defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti and it’s an honor to have an offer from such a big program as Oregon. They did great last year and I loved watching them play.”
— On Utah, “I’ve known Coach Kalani Sitake there since I was in the eighth grade. He’s a very good friend of the family and he’s doing a great job at Utah. He’d also be a great coach to play for. Utah has had a lot of success lately and playing in that program, it’s something I’ll consider for sure.”
— On BYU, “BYU is my top choice right now. I’m LDS and I love the standards they have there and how the team conducts itself. BYU has a special atmosphere that I absolutely love. When you talk to Coach Mendenhall, and just being at BYU and around the program, it’s just special and unique. It’s not like any other program.”
Ah Ching has a busy summer planned as he’ll trip to camps at Florida, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Cal, Oregon, BYU and the All-Poly camp among others: “I want to show what I can do and to get as many offers as possible, so I can make the best decision for myself,” he said.
He plans on waiting until National Letter-of-Intent day to make his decision. He’s not planning to commit before then like most other recruits. BYU hasn’t fared well at all with last-minute commits much less with those that make their decision on LOI day, but that could change in 2012 with Ah Ching.
“It’s going to be very, very hard for me to sign with another school other than BYU,” he said. “My heart is at BYU right now and I think it might always be there, even if I sign with another school. They’re my top choice right now, but it’s a big decision for me, and I want to think through everything carefully and then decide.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company