Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Bishop Gorman High football coach Tony Sanchez showed two coaches from Weber State game film last week on the mounted television in his office, giving them information on a player he hopes they offer a scholarship.
Southern Nevada's 2014 signing class — Division I
Tyrell Crosby, OL, Green Valley High — Oregon
Nick Gates, OL, Bishop Gorman High — Nebraska
Noble Hall, DE, Valley High — San Diego State
Tim Hough, DB, Desert Pines High — UNLV
Casey Hughes, S, Legacy High — Utah
Michael Hughes Jr., DL, Palo Verde High — UNLV
Austin Hunt, TE, Silverado High — UNLV
Mat McDermand, OL, Moapa Valley High — UNR
Conor Perkins, K, Green Valley High — UNLV
Armand Perry, DB, Bishop Gorman High — Arizona State
Jarvis Polu, DL, Liberty High — Army or Navy
Zack Singer, DL, Bishop Gorman High — Kent State
Aaron Zanin-Banks, WR, Las Vegas High — Air Force
In the lobby outside his office, a coach from Nebraska waited for his crack at the coach, eager to get a transcript for a Gorman player that recently committed to his university.
Two days earlier, when nearly 100 returning players were lifting weights after school, eight coaches from the Pac-12 Conference were in the Gorman complex making a visit. And at one point last week, new USC coach Steve Sarkisian and four assistants — yes, four assistants — dropped in from Los Angeles to recruit at the Nevada powerhouse.
Today is national signing day, when a high school player’s verbal commitment to a college becomes official with the signing of a national letter of intent.
Five-time defending state champion Gorman has consistently had the most players in Las Vegas advancing to the next level, sending 22 in the past five signing classes — since Sanchez became coach — to Division I schools, including three this year. At least another 10 have signed with, and received significant scholarship money from, lower-division schools. Two have signed with Division I schools for other sports.
Some have gone to powerhouse schools such as Notre Dame or Stanford. Others have found homes at mid-majors such as Kent State or Colorado State, in the Ivy League or at military academies.
More than a decade ago, the Las Vegas area struggled to attract recruiters. Now, partially because of Gorman’s rise to national prominence, it’s a destination on the recruiting trail. Some are coming from universities out of the region, stepping foot in Las Vegas for the first time with hopes of tapping into Gorman’s talent, or the talent at other schools. Excluding Gorman, 10 players from nine Las Vegas area schools are signing with Division I programs today.
With so many new faces, Sanchez last year started documenting the coach visits on his computer calendar. Last May, coaches representing 54 different schools made visits.
“The great thing about the May deal is those guys all come and watch an entire practice,” Sanchez said. “You talk about going to combines and all these things, and those things aren’t bad. But when you have schools come and physically watch your kids run around for two hours, they see the movement patterns. They see the work ethic. They see the toughness. They see a lot of things they don’t at a combine.”
They’ve clearly liked what they’ve seen.
Nick Gates is expected to sign with Nebraska, Armand Perry with Arizona State and Zack Singer with Kent State. Five others are signing to lower-division schools, including defensive back Dylan Weldon with Columbia, getting nearly all of his Ivy League education paid for because he excelled at Gorman.
The Weldon family moved to Las Vegas from Lake Havasu, Ariz., strictly for their son to attend Gorman, knowing the exposure of playing at the big-time program yielded a higher probability of reaching college than competing at a small-town Arizona school.
Never in his wildest imagination did Weldon picture frequent practices in front of college coaches, having multiple opportunities to show he’s worthy of a scholarship. Wearing polo shirts with their school’s logo and likely a championship ring, the coaches are easily spotted by players.
“We definitely notice. We talk: ‘Who is that? Who was out here watching us?’” Weldon said. “Everyone tries to put in a little more effort. Everyone wants to get noticed (by coaches).”
And when they get noticed, they get mail. Lots of mail.
A table outside Sanchez’s office holds recruiting letters when they arrive, giving a small glimpse into the massive recruiting attention Gorman players receive. Letters come almost daily during the recruiting season, from schools in most conferences and at all levels.
Players typically stop at the table when arriving to train, quickly searching through the letters, hoping for communication. Word quickly spreads when a letter comes from a powerhouse school such as Alabama, or earlier this season when quarterback Randall Cunningham II received more than 100 letters on the same day from Mississippi State. Cunningham is signing today with USC for track.
“My first and foremost job is to build Bishop Gorman High School and in the process help these kids become the best possible football players,” Sanchez said. “I can’t hand out scholarships. I can’t create them. What I can do is help these kids get better and when (coaches) come in to look at our guys, give them the opportunity to see the kids move around. (Coaches) have to make the decision.”
Most call ahead of time to plan a visit; others pop in without warning. Regardless, Sanchez welcomes them with open arms, always having game film ready and willing to stay late to help one of his players reach the next level. He even endorses players from other Las Vegas schools, never hesitating to instruct coaches to recruit a player the Gaels recently competed against.
“The great thing is when these 50 or so schools come to town, they are coming in and going to others schools,” Sanchez said. “Recently, a lot of big schools have found some talent (in Las Vegas). There is plenty of talent in this town.”
Last year, he recommended Shadow Ridge quarterback Bakari Smith to Sacramento State after coaching Smith for a week in an all-star game. A few days later, Smith had a full-ride scholarship.
“Thanks to (Sanchez). He did everything as far as hooking it up,” Smith said last year. “He said he liked what he saw during that week of practice.”
The carousel of coaches through Gorman won’t end today. Most colleges have already started offering scholarships to next year’s class of players. Alize Jones is considered the best tight end in the nation and is verbally committed to UCLA. Safety Nicco Fertitta has a Notre Dame offer, defensive lineman Jackson Perry has been offered by Nebraska, and wide receiver Cordell Broadus has double-digit offers, including one from national champion Florida State.
Come May, when the Gaels are on the field for a few weeks of spring practice, Sanchez knows what to expect. The coaches will come by the dozen. He’ll add them to his calendar.
“Thanks, Coach. You’re the best," first-year Weber State coach Jay Hill said when leaving Gorman last week. "Nobody does it better.”