OTHELLO — When you’re working toward a far away dream, sometimes it seems like you have all the time in the world to get there. Then all of a sudden, the time is now and that dream is becoming closer to reality.
These are exciting times for the Perez family. Othello High School junior Isaiah Perez started working on elevating his football skills back in the seventh grade — special invite camps, weight room regiments, technique drills, diet, attention to detail, all of the behind the scenes focus on the road to greatness.
He’s just a junior and already he’s become one of the highest sought after recruits in Washington state and it’s not just the in-state universities showing interest. Last spring, he made visits to UCLA, University of Southern California and Wisconsin.
This fall, he’s been on the road almost every weekend with visits to the Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Howard. Perez, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound Huskies defensive end, was the Central Washington Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year as a sophomore, as well as first team all-conference at defensive end and second team all-conference selection at running back.
He’s received three, four letters of interest a week from Harvard, Purdue, Northwestern, Eastern Washington, Stanford, Weber State and a slew of others. Both BYU (Division 1 FBS school) and Howard (Division 1 FCS school) have made scholarship offers.
“It’s a really fun process knowing that you’re good enough to play at the next level. It’s been my dream for so long. It’s hard to explain, but it’s been a lot of fun,” said Perez, who’s made eight visits so far. “In the spring, I toured the campus and the football facilities at UCLA, USC and Wisconsin. The latest ones this fall, I’ve been able to go to the games and see the facilities.
“They make you feel pretty special, then they take you out to the field and you get to watch the game.”
Perez has been hand-timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.85 seconds. He also has some pretty special benchmarks in the weight room with a 335-pound maximum on the bench and a max squat of 450. His best deadlift is 500 pounds.
The sky’s the limit for a young man with strong spiritual ties to his local church and family values. The idea of being made to feel wanted is what the recruiting process is all about, but Perez has his own ideas of what he wants in a football program and a place of higher education.
“So far I’ve taken a look at my own feelings and what I feel is right about what’s the best fit for me,” said Perez, who also won a 2A state heavyweight wrestling championship last year as sophomore. “I’ve been to some games this fall and it’s pretty cool walking out onto the field and seeing all the fans cheering. The environment at the football game is pretty crazy.
“Personally, I’m not really looking at what they’ve done (Heisman winners, national championships) in the past. My goal is to play after college and if I’m getting what I need in college and they can make me the best I can be, that’s where I want to be.”
The end game is to play on Sundays, but it’s one step at a time for this Othello family. With all the books on the horror stories of major university football recruiting. Gordy Perez has been there every step of the way, and says the process has been professional and his son has been treated with dignity and respect.
“I just posted on Facebook today, it’s an exciting time to be Isaiah Perez,” he said. “All this attention that’s coming on us has been amazing. When they brought us on the field at Oregon, we followed the players out, the crowd was cheering. We want him to enjoy the process and the attention and make the choice that best fits him.”
It doesn’t hurt that his mother Mandi’s brothers Ryan (2001-02) and Eddie Keele (2003-06) both went through the recruiting process and played at Brigham Young. Eddie went through training camp with the Raiders and played a season in the Arena Football League with the Utah Blaze.
“I spent last summer in Utah training and working out with them, Isaiah said. “We talked a little bit about how it all works.”
Mandi Perez is a 1995 Othello graduate and went to Eastern Washington University on a track and field scholarship. Even in the short 23-year span from her recruiting experience, today a whole different process.
“Probably the biggest difference in recruiting these days is social media,” she said. “A lot of Isaiah’s recruiting has been on Twitter. He’ll talk to coaches and that’s how he got his last offer (with Howard University) was over Twitter.
“We had no idea of how the recruiting process goes. We had some advice on making a Twitter account and how the coaches do a lot of stuff on Twitter. Isaiah does a good job making his own highlight film. He does all of his own stuff on Hudl. They told us the film should only be two-three minutes, you want to start with your top five plays. I’m just really impressed when I watch his highlight film.”
When it comes right down to it, all the schmoozing aside, Perez, who carries a 2.87 grade point average in the classroom, will make his own decision. He didn’t give a specific timeline as to when that will be.
Right now, his interest is to get the Huskies into the CWAC postseason with a big game at Ellensburg and enjoy the process.