About a half hour before he signed his national letter of intent Wednesday morning, Silverado defensive end Keenan Graham was asked by a school receptionist what program he chose.
“A college,” Graham said, laughing.
That was the kind of uncertainty that shrouded recruiting of Graham, who decided on UCLA over Utah on Sunday but was yet to publicly confirm his choice. He even brought letters from both schools to the Skyhawks’ on-campus ceremony.
But after donning a Bruins cap with a broad grin, Graham left no doubt, and the Utah letter never left its envelope.
“It was very close,” said Graham, who has lived previously in Utah. “Utah didn’t make it easy, and I definitely at one point was going to go to Utah.
“But I had to look at it all over again. Talking with coach (Rick) Neuheisel and all the UCLA coaches, I felt like UCLA is the best place for me.”
The 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound Graham rang up 24 sacks the past two seasons. Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 2 overall prospect in Nevada and the nation’s No. 14 defensive end.
Graham originally gave an oral commitment to UCLA in November but began considering Utah after officially visiting the Utes in January.
He exhausted all five of his visits, also taking trips to Nebraska, Wisconsin and Colorado.
Graham is convinced UCLA can rise quickly in the Pac-10.
“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is competing for a conference championship,” he said. “In the future, UCLA’s going to be up there with USC. I truly believe that.”
The Silverado ceremony also was attended by defensive back Michael Wadsworth, who signed with Hawaii.
After the suspense with Graham, signing day went according to the script in Southern Nevada.
Palo Verde was the only school to have multiple players sign with Bowl Championship Series conference programs.
The Panthers hosted an on-campus ceremony to honor cornerback Torin Harris (Southern California), linebacker Liloa Nobriga (Colorado) and cornerback Sidney Hodge (UNLV).
“One second after the state (title) game, I started missing them already,” said Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost, whose team was 14-0 before a 13-12 loss to McQueen in the Class 4A final.
Harris hopes the Panthers were part of Las Vegas becoming a hot spot for talent.
Fifteen local players have signed with Football Bowl Subdivision schools, and more could be added to the list by the April 1 deadline.
“It’s just a landmark for our school to show that we produce athletes, and the same for Las Vegas,” Harris said.
Bishop Gorman defensive end Justin Chaisson (Oklahoma) led a contingent of five Gaels to sign, including an area-high four FBS recruits.
He was joined in an on-campus ceremony by defensive backs Charles Childers (UNLV) and John Therrell (UNLV), offensive lineman Sam Womack (Navy) and linebacker Sam Aigbe (Southern Utah).
“It’s awesome,” Chaisson said. “It shows what kind of program we have here at Bishop Gorman.”
Cheyenne hosted a ceremony at a pizza parlor Tuesday night to honor linebacker Damien Proby (Northwestern), defensive tackle Jeremiah Tofaeono (Utah) and slot back Marcus Sullivan (UNLV).
Proby was one of the final players to publicly announce his decision. He had at least seven FBS offers but visited only Northwestern. The runner-up was Oregon State.
“I looked at the academics and the sport,” he said of Northwestern. “They’re in the Big 10. That’s good football, no matter where you play.”
Though the recruiting process can be cutthroat, it also provided a chance for longtime friends Proby and Tofaeono to have a little fun.
“We always talk a friendly competition, 'When we play you,’ and different scenarios that could happen in bowl games,” Proby said. “I’ve known Jeremiah since sixth grade, so we’re real close friends.”