The list of Bishop Gorman football seniors who will play in college grew to seven Sunday, and the Gaels might not be done yet.
Linebacker Evan Palelei said he gave an oral commitment to Navy, and running back Victor Belen chose Samford. Both players committed at the conclusion of their official recruiting visits.
The duo joins tight end Xavier Grimble (Southern California), defensive linemen Alex Turner (Stanford) and Ian Bobak (UNLV), offensive lineman Geoffrey Gibson (California) and safety Taylor Spencer (UNLV) as seniors to have committed.
"It’s absolutely incredible," Gorman coach Tony Sanchez said. "These kids work so hard. They’ve put a stamp on Gorman football."
Palelei originally committed to Stanford in April, but his recruitment reopened in September. He chose Navy over scholarship offers from Colorado, Idaho and UNLV after visiting each school.
"The whole program, just going up there was a great experience," Palelei said of his visit to Navy. "I was really impressed. The Navy will take care of me for the rest of my life."
Palelei said he left impressed not only with Navy’s football program, but also its engineering department. He also felt a comfort factor while talking with former Gorman offensive lineman Sam Womack, who signed with Navy last year.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 230-pound Palelei had 52 tackles and four sacks as a senior, helping Gorman roll to a 15-0 record and its second Class 4A state title in three years. He said Navy recruited him as an outside linebacker.
"In that defense, I’ll have a lot of freedom to play, to go out and hit people," he said.
Palelei is the second local senior to commit to Navy in the past month, joining Palo Verde defensive end Daniel Godkin.
Belen chose Samford, a Football Championship Subdivision school just outside of Birmingham, Ala., over offers from Northern Arizona and Southern Utah.
"It’s just a really nice area, a great football team," Belen said. "It’s what I’ve always wanted."
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Belen rushed for 1,343 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior, averaging 9.1 yards per carry. He emerged as a big-play threat after rushing for 89 yards on 16 carries as a junior.
"His junior year, he had less than 20 carries," Sanchez said. "To come out and earn a scholarship as a senior, that’s amazing."
Belen said his senior year was crucial in receiving recruiting interest.
"Coach Sanchez had my back," Belen said. "He said, ‘Don’t worry about being recruited, worry about the season.’ So when teams saw my tape, they saw I was a team player."
Sanchez said senior defensive lineman Tim Wilkinson, who visited Southern Utah this weekend and has scheduled a trip to Northern Arizona next weekend, hopes to decide between the two schools soon.
Gorman senior defensive back and return specialist Johnathan Loyd has an offer from UNLV in football, Sanchez said. But Loyd, also a star point guard, hopes to accept a basketball scholarship, Sanchez said.
Players are not bound by oral commitments. Signing day is Feb. 3.
JEFFERSON TO UNLV — UNLV’s football team nabbed its sixth local player of this recruiting season when Desert Oasis senior offensive lineman Cameron Jefferson committed Sunday.
Jefferson (6 feet 6 inches, 250 pounds), who chose the Rebels over UNR and Northern Arizona, said he was swayed by “the coaches, the players, the togetherness and the environment.
“I want to be part of a new tradition.”
Desert Oasis coach Faron Seibel said the coaches’ commitment under UNLV first-year coach Bobby Hauck to local recruits is getting noticed.
“Bobby recruits, and he’s real good at it,” Seibel said. “One thing I talked to him about was hitting the ground running. Once the local kids get involved, the rest will come in.”
NORRIS TO SOUTHERN UTAH — Liberty senior wide receiver/defensive back Anthony Norris said he committed to Southern Utah on Sunday at the end of his official visit.
"It’s very exciting," Norris said. "They’re going to get way better."
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Norris had 20 receptions for 328 yards and two TDs as a senior, helping the Patriots to an 8-4 record and the Sunrise Region semifinals.
Norris said he also drew interest from UNLV, Northern Arizona and South Dakota.