Clackamas' Cole Turner signs football letter of intent with Nevada
Clackamas' Cole Turner never wavered in the commitment he made to the University of Nevada four months ago, even as other Division I schools joined in the conversation and tried to persuade the standout wide receiver to reconsider.
On Wednesday, Turner made his decision official when he signed a National Letter of Intent to play football for Nevada coach Jay Norvell's Wolf Pack of the Mountain West Conference next fall.
"It's just a really exciting day for me and my family to know where for sure I'm going," Turner said during a signing ceremony at the high school with family, friends, coaches and teammates attending.
"It means the world to me. It's a blessing to be able to go play at the next level and keep doing something that I really love. I'm just really happy that I have the opportunity."
Turner took advantage of a new NCAA policy that went into effect this year, allowing high school seniors to sign letters of intent during an early three-day signing period that started Wednesday rather than wait until the traditional National Signing Day in early February.
Turner, who caught 76 passes for 1,325 yards and 19 touchdowns to help lead Clackamas (14-0) to its first OSAA Class 6A state championship, was one of 16 players to sign with Nevada on Wednesday.
"Nevada is getting a steal," Clackamas coach Joe Bushman said. "I think Cole is going to be ready to play sooner rather than later, and talk about a great character kid to build around for the next few years.
"I know Nevada lost some close ones this year, but you get a bunch of Cole Turners around, you're going to starting winning those close games. So, I'm excited to follow Cole and see what Nevada does in the next few years."
Turner also had offers from Air Force, BYU, Columbia, Eastern Washington, Holy Cross, Idaho, Oregon State, Portland State (his first true scholarship offer), Princeton, UC-Davis, and Weber State.
Ultimately, though, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound receiver said his decision came down to his infatuation with Nevada's Air Raid offense and the Wolf Pack coaches who told him exactly where they envisioned him fitting into the offense and how they planned to use him.
"Everywhere else, people were telling me they weren't really sure whether they wanted to keep me on the outside or move me down," Turner said. "They said they had to wait and see. But at Nevada, they know they want to keep me at receiver, for sure, and they want me to come in and contribute as soon as possible."
When Turner announced in late August via Twitter that he planned to sign with Nevada during the new early signing period, he said things quieted down on the recruiting front for about a month.
"But as soon as some of my senior highlights started coming out, that's when things started picking up again," he said. "I said that I'd really only listen to schools that were in the Pac-12 or one of the other Power Five conferences."
The California Golden Bears came calling and told Turner if he would wait to make a final decision until after the early signing period, they probably would have a scholarship available for him, because they expected one or two players to transfer out and make something available.
"I was like, 'No, I'm not really into playing the waiting game. If you want be bad enough, then you come for me,'" Turner said. "And then same with Oregon State. They wanted me to wait and come on an official visit.
"And then Oregon told me if I waited, too, then they could see what would open up as well, but I'm not really about that. Another big thing for me was I wanted to go to a school that really wanted me. And Nevada, for sure, called me two or three times a week, every week, and supported me through everything."
Nevada offensive coordinator Matt Mumme and offensive line coach Mason Miller were both on the Clackamas sideline for the Cavaliers' 31-30 victory over South Medford in the Class 6A championship game at Reser Stadium in Corvallis -- an appearance that didn't go unnoticed by Turner or his parents, Holly and Kelly.
"Life is about relationships, and Cole had the best relationship with Nevada," said Kelly, a former college tight end who lettered in football at Purdue in 1987, 1988 and 1990 while playing under Fred Akers. "They're not just calling and asking, 'How are you working out?' The coaches that really rise to the top are getting to know the family and what they're all about, and how Cole came to be here.
"This is so surreal. It's hard to think about it too much without getting choked up."
Kelly, who played with Rod Woodson and Kevin Sumlin while at Purdue, said he never put any pressure on his son to play football.
"I wanted to hold off on letting him play football until the sixth grade, but he begged me to let him play in fifth grade," Kelly said. "That's when I knew that he really wanted to do it.
"To see your son do something like this, and to not only succeed, but do better than what you did, it really takes my breath away. You can show kids what's available to them if they really want it, but it's up to them to really chase their dreams."
Turner, who elevated his game with off-season help from EForce Football, the Lake Oswego-based skills development specialists, averaged 17.4 yards per catch as senior, while pulling down at least one touchdown pass in 12 of 14 games and topping 100 yards receiving in seven games.
He also was one of seven Clackamas players named to the 6A all-state first team and became the first player in Bushman's 12 seasons as head coach of the Cavaliers to sign a letter of intent with an NCAA Division I school.
"We've had a lot of really good players the last few years that are playing all over, but mostly at smaller schools," Bushman said. "It's pretty cool for Cole to break through and get a bonafide Division I offer, and I think there are many more to come here in the next few years, which is exciting.
"But it's a neat deal for Cole. Man, he deserves it. No one has worked harder than him or been more dedicated. I always tell people that it's such a neat thing when your best player is also one of your hardest workers and best kids, too. And we were blessed to have a bunch of kids like that this year, which translated into success."