Sports

Local football players sign letters of intent

It’s official.

On Wednesday, Decatur senior J.C. Ronnfeldt and Federal Way seniors Nate Vander Pol and Brandon Keeler signed letters of intent to attend colleges on football scholarships.

Ronnfeldt, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound offensive guard, was joined by his parents and his younger brother Joe as he signed his letter to attend Oregon State University on a football scholarship. He had orally committed to the university in November.

“It feels good to finally get it done,” Ronnfeldt said. “I always knew I wanted to play college football.”

Keeler, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound wide receiver, was joined by his mom, Shelley, as he signed his letter to attend Eastern Washington University.

“It’s been a dream,” Keeler said. “I’m excited and relieved — happy that it all paid off.”

Vander Pol, a 6-5 290-pound offensive guard, was joined by his parents, Brent and Brenda, as he signed his letter to attend the University of Idaho.

“It’s like a new beginning,” Vander Pol said. “I’m getting ready for the next step. I thought I had a pretty good chance to play at the next level. It’s exciting.”

Vander Pol was recruited by Washington State, Oregon, Portland State and Eastern Washington before choosing Idaho.

“When I took my visit, it was a gut feeling,” Vander Pol said. “Everything seemed to fit. This is the place for me.”

“He had a fantastic season this year,” said Federal Way coach John Meagher. “He really improved a lot from his junior year. He made a real big commitment to the weight room last year. He got a lot of attention for his size and athleticism and he backed it up. Idaho is getting a real gem, not just a great football player, but a great kid with great character.”

In addition to Oregon State, Ronnfeldt also received attention from all of the Pac-10 schools as well as Colorado and Nebraska.

“He was very heavily recruited,” said Oregon State coach Dennis Erickson. “He’s a guy who wanted to get out of Seattle, he didn’t want to go to a big school and he decided during the season that this was where he wanted to go. As a player, he has a chance to be really good.”

Ronnfeldt credits his family and his coach with helping him make his decision easier. Both his parents are graduates of Nebraska, but Ronnfeldt said they didn’t put any pressure on his decision.

“It was exciting, but real long,” Ronnfeldt said of the recruiting process. “My trip to OSU, I knew that’s where I wanted to go. The campus and the coaches, it just felt right.”

Keeler was courted by Washington State University, Portland State and the University of Montana before deciding on Eastern Washington.

“I liked the coaches and the people around me,” Keeler said of his visit to Eastern.

“Brandon Keeler was the top receiver we wanted in the state, and we feel real fortunate to get him,” said Eastern head coach Paul Wulff . “He is a big receiver and we knew we needed to go after a little bit of size.”

“Brandon’s strength is his athleticism,” Meagher said. “He’s a fantastic track athlete with above-average hands. They got a real diamond in the rough. In the long run, he will be a lot better than some of the people around here realize.”

Both Vander Pol and Ronnfeldt were All-State selections and members of the Mirror’s All-City football team. Keeler was also on the Mirror’s All-City team.

“I’m proud of him,” said Decatur coach Rik Haines. “J.C. could be as good of a football player as he needs to be. If he wants to be All-Pac-10, he’ll be All-Pac-10. It’s all up to him.

“If he wants to contribute next year for them, which I think he does, he has to live in the Decatur weight room. Even though he’s a real strong guy, he’ll be going up against guys just as strong or stronger.”

During the recruiting process, all three were subjects of the rumor-mills on the Internet. Numerous Web sites are devoted to following the decisions of high school players, profiting from eager fans.

College football fans fill chat rooms trying to predict what decision the players will make.

Type Ronnfeldt’s name into a search engine, and some 400 entries come up.

“Half the stuff I read isn’t true,” Ronnfeldt said.

All three players offered advice to future athletes who might be in a similar situation someday.

“It’s easy to get caught up in all the fancy stuff,” Ronnfeldt said. “Think things through, don’t get carried away.”

Keeler had similar advice.

“Keep a level head,” he said. “Don’t get too caught up in it. Try not to get a big head and stay true to your values.”

“Have fun with it,” Vander Pol said. “It’s stressful at times, but how many guys even have a chance to go through it?”

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