Since Mitchell Kaufman gave his verbal commitment to play football at SMU, the Mustangs suffered through a 1-11 season and changed coaches.
Yet Kaufman’s enthusiasm was higher than ever as he signed on Wednesday to play for the Mustangs and new head coach Chad Morris, who was hired in December.
“I’m really excited about what they bring to the table,” said Kaufman, whose parents are each SMU grads. “They did a great job with keeping me in the loop.”
Kaufman is a two-sport standout for the Scots who scored three defensive touchdowns as a linebacker last season, when HP finished 10-2 and reached the area round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Several of Kaufman’s teammates also signed or committed to play college football on Wednesday, including fellow linebacker Michael Linehan (Idaho), offensive linemen Austin Webb (Hawaii) and Rees LeMay (Yale), defensive lineman Nick Waterman (Air Force), and defensive back Boomer Bakich (Army).
Linehan will continue a family legacy at Idaho that dates back three generations. His grandfather and father each played for the Vandals, as did two uncles. His older brother, Matt, is the starting quarterback.
“It wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but once his brother committed there, I think they wanted to play together again,” said Michael’s father, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who played quarterback and also met his wife in college.
Michael and Matt played together for a season while they were growing up in Florida, and again for one season in high school in suburban Detroit, where the family lived before moving to the Park Cities last year. But Michael — who led the Scots with 99 tackles, including 42 solo tackles, as a linebacker last year — said it was more than family ties that drew him to the Vandals.
“They really wanted me there,” he said of head coach Paul Petrino and his staff. “The coaches have one a good job bringing that program up.”
Webb was originally committed to Montana State before he visited the Hawaii campus in Honolulu a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps not surprisingly considering the geography, he chose to play for the Rainbow Warriors instead of the Bobcats. Still, he claims the decision also had to do with “ohana,” a Hawaiian word meaning a sense of family.
“I had a great time and decided I wanted to go to college there,” said Webb, who was the largest player on the HP roster last year at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds. “The people are very welcoming. It doesn’t feel like you’re that far from home, even though you are.”
By attending the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Waterman will follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, who flew B-52 bombers in Vietnam.
“He’s really been an inspiration for me,” Waterman said. “I’ve wanted to go to the Air Force for a long time. Getting this football offer was just the icing on the cake.”
Bakich also has family ties to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., since his uncle was a colonel who taught there.
“I figured they would push me harder than anyone else would,” said Bakich, who started 38 games for the Scots during the past three seasons, including eight playoff games.
Also signing on Wednesday were two HP girls soccer players who were members of the Lady Scots’ state championship team in 2012. Emily O’Neal signed with Nebraska, while Kate Summers will attend Texas Tech.
“It fit me and gave me a good vibe. The girls were really nice,” Summers said of the Red Raiders. “I’m going to work really hard so I can get on the field.”
O’Neal said her father attended Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers became an attractive option after she visited a summer camp there.
“I’ve got family up there. I think everyone’s pretty excited,” O’Neal said. “It seemed like the perfect fit.”