I read my colleague James Yodice’s recent story about quarterback Aden Chavez’s return to Cibola from Florida with the lyrics and melody of the 1963 Beach Boys hit “Be True to Your School” playing in my head.
If you think Fats Domino’s 1955 hit “Ain’t That a Shame” was next on my hit parade, no. No snark. No disrespect. Glad he’s back.
Of course, Chavez had every right to search for more fertile recruiting fields and a higher level of competition in Florida, just as La Cueva two-sport star Exodus Ayers has every right to leave LCHS for a New Hampshire prep school.
Here, though, is what I believe. If you’re a New Mexico kid and you’re good enough, the colleges will find you.
Playing alongside the kids you grew up with.
Certainly, college recruiters do make mistakes. They sometimes sign kids who don’t pan out; they sometimes overlook kids who walk on somewhere and prove to be better than the kids that got signed. Those things happen, yes.
In their ultra-competitive world, though, those talent evaluators have become awfully good at talent evaluation. They’re right far more often than they’re wrong.
In Chavez’s case, based purely on statistics, there’s seemingly no reason the college offers wouldn’t be pouring in. As a Cibola junior, he threw for 3,075 yards, completing 62% of his passes with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He’s listed at 6-foot-5 and around 200 pounds. He’s an honor student.
Yet, an online search shows only three scholarship offers: New Mexico Highlands, Pomona-Pitzer College in California and Carleton College in Minnesota.
Is the problem underexposure? He’s been to several big offseason camps out of state, the same type of exposure that transformed former Los Lunas running back O’maury Samuels from a total unknown into a 2016 Michigan signee (he’s now at New Mexico State). So far, for Chavez, no bites.
On one recruiting website, Chavez is listed as having run the 40-yard dash in the relatively pedestrian time of 4.9 seconds. Wait; isn’t the arm, not the legs, the important body part for a quarterback?
These days, it’s both – or all three. If you’re a quarterback who can’t run, you’d better be the second coming of Tom Brady.
The truth is, I’m speculating. I don’t know why Chavez isn’t getting more offers.
I do know that, as an Eldorado senior in 2014, Zach Gentry had passing stats that paled in comparison to Chavez’s in 2021. It should be noted that Gentry rushed for more than 900 yards as a senior.
As we all know, Gentry committed to Texas, then signed with Michigan, where he switched from quarterback to tight end. He’s now entering his fourth year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even back at Eldorado, though, Gentry’s senior stats were dwarfed by those of Rio Rancho quarterback Easton Bruere.
As a senior in 2014, Bruere threw for 4,567 yards with 49 TDs and just six interceptions. He was listed at 6-3 and 200 pounds. He was an honor student. He displayed his wares at multiple camps. His Rams beat Gentry’s Eagles en route to a Class 6A state title.
Yet, Bruere never had a single Division I offer, let alone a BCS offer. He wound up at a Kansas junior college, then at a small college in Colorado, where, at both schools, he played sparingly.
“I’ve been asked about Easton all year,” Albuquerque prep football analyst and former Del Norte and Eldorado coach David Williams told the Journal in February 2015, as Bruere remained without substantial offers. “But my answer is always the same; he doesn’t have the unique qualities schools are looking for. … They are looking for an impact player, not at the statistics.”
New Mexico players of impact, in the past, got those offers.
Notre Dame found Mayfield running back Roddy Bone (class of 1979). Purdue found Eldorado quarterback Jim Everett (1980).
Running backs Mike Carter (Sandia, Class of 1978) and DonTrell Moore (Roswell, Class of 2001) had multiple offers from power-conference schools; both chose UNM. Nebraska found quarterback Bobby Newcombe (Highland, Class of 1997).
Even before the Internet – in fact, before many households even had TV sets – Oklahoma found small but fleet running back Tommy McDonald (Highland, Class of 1953).
The good news for Chavez is that, pending approval regarding his eligibility from the New Mexico Activities Association, he has his senior season to play with his Cibola teammates, with their Cougars classmates cheering them on.
The college recruiters will be watching – perhaps, among the older coaches, with the 1964 Del Shannon hit “Keep Searchin'” playing in their heads.