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Portland State was in Central Catholic QB's plans all along

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Aidan Wilder heads to the end zone for Central Catholic in the Rams state semifinal win against Tigard.Aidan Wilder is staying close to home, which — perhaps fittingly — is where he made the decision official.

When it came time to choose a college, Wilder, the quarterback of Central Catholic High’s 2013 Class 6A championship team didn’t set up a bunch of Division I college hats on a table at school or call his own press conference. There was no popping of Martinelli’s cider with a crowd of supporters as he signed his letter-of-intent.

Instead, Wilder quietly became a Portland State Viking at his Canby home, in the company of his mother and stepfather.

“I had the opportunity to sign in front of my mother, Susan Hempe, and my stepfather, Joe Hansen, at home” Wilder says. “I also talked to my father, Sabel, about signing with PSU multiple times prior to (the Feb. 5 signing day).

“All three realize the blessing of a full-ride scholarship and have been nothing but supportive through the entire process.”

Wilder received only one scholarship offer, and the 5-11, 185-pounder says he would have walked onto PSU’s football team if he had had to. But Vikings coach Nigel Burton made sure Wilder had a spot on the list of scholarship signees.

Last season, Wilder accounted for 27 touchdowns (19 in the air, eight on the ground), while throwing for 2,062 yards as the Rams went undefeated for their first state title in 60 years.

“I told them (PSU) they would be getting one of the best leaders, competitors and athletes to come out of our program,” Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne says. “It says a lot that with the history of our program and the great QB’s to go through here in the last 20 years — Joey Harrington, Michael Harrington, Mark Grbavac, Nick Green and Jordan Perry — Aidan is the only one who can call himself a state champion.”

The Rams capped their storybook season with a 38-28 victory over Jesuit.

“I couldn’t have written it up any better,” Wilder says. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way. We played as a team and eliminated the egos. It was a blessing to play for Coach Pyne over the past four years on varsity.”

During the college recruiting process, Wilder met with Burton and PSU offensive coordinator/QBs coach Bruce Barnum.

“We met at Red Robin, and to be honest, it was a little nerve-racking,” Wilder says. “We figured out that once basketball season ends, I’ll have the chance to come in and start going over the playbook and working out with the team.”

Burton says he believes Wilder “will have a great career here. I believed that he would have walked on because he loved our program throughout the process and wanted to be here. We offered him a scholarship because he earned it.

“We offered him midseason after seeing him at multiple camps over the season and watching his performance in the first couple games of his senior season.”

Wilder has his work cut out for him at Portland State. Kieran McDonagh, a 6-2, 245-pounder, started most of the time as a freshman and last year as a sophomore. In 2013, despite injuries, McDonagh threw for 1,936 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 407 yards and four TDs.

And the Vikings have sophomore Paris Penn, a breakaway running threat who has some experience in college ball at QB as well.

Wilder figures that the job is McDonagh’s to lose.

“It’s going to be a competition,” Wilder says. “He’s the frontrunner and has been the starter the last two seasons.”

Burton says all incoming freshmen and junior college transfers have the chance to play right away. And Wilder has been spending a lot of time at PSU already, learning the offense, working out and doing everything but get on the field. He decided not to run track for Central Catholic this spring in order to focus on football. “I’m lifting, throwing and running a lot after school,” he said. “My arm has been sore, but in a good way. I have guys running routes for me. It’s been great.”

Pyne says Wilder has the intangibles to compete for the starting job, but will need to dive into the playbook “and learn it inside and out. He will need to improve his accuracy and arm strength. He will also need to adjust to the speed of college games. If he can do these things, he has a chance to be that guy.”

At Central Catholic, Wilder often focused on running the show rather than being the show.

“I could have been more selfish at times last season, but that’s not my game,” he says. “There are other guys around me who can make big plays. There were games that I only threw for 150 to 200 yards (but) could have easily thrown for over 300. But again ... that’s not my game.”

Pyne agrees, saying Wilder “is selfless and understands that getting the ball in the hands of playmakers, makes him an effective QB. He is very elusive and quick. He has the ability to keep plays alive with his feet, which often leads to big plays. He’s extremely tough and durable. He’s also highly competitive.”

Can Wilder be the next great thing to come out of Central Catholic’s football program?

“That remains to be seen,” Pyne says. “He admires (Seattle Seahawks QB) Russell Wilson, and he compares in a lot of ways with him — height and size. That is what he aspires to be, but his impact and legacy at PSU is in his hands. But I would not bet against him.”

Wilder figures he will need to put on weight, among other things.

“The biggest thing for me is that nothing has been given to me,” he says. “I’ve worked real hard to get to this point. And I’m not going to give up anytime soon.”

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