Based on record on the football field over the last few seasons, the casual high school football fan might not associate the North Canyon Rattlers as having some of the state’s top athletes coming out of their program to compete at the next level because of their record despite players transferring out and multiple coaching changes.
But the truth is, North Canyon has in fact had some of Arizona’s best athletes over each of the last three years. In recent history, it started with Jamar Allah who was not well known until Arizona came up and offered him. Now Allah is prepared to take over a starting safety spot for the Wildcats next fall. Bryant O’Georgia cleared seven feet, two and a quarter inches in the high jump as a senior and was one of the most versatile players in Arizona both his junior and senior seasons. He went up NAU and stood out as a freshman before deciding to focus on track full time and transferred to U of A. And speaking of track, Jasmine Stauffacher-Gray just won the state title in the 400 meters for the fourth time in her four years of school and is heading to UCLA next fall.
The latest in this trend of premiere Rattler athletes is soon-to-be senior John Okwoli who by no fault of his own, was on too few people’s radars by those who decide on All-State teams after a fantastic junior season. He carried his team offensively by the tune of 86 catches for over 1400 yards and 10 touchdowns plus a kick return and interception return for a score in the other two phases of the game.
This spring is proving that Okwoli was on more radars than we once thought as college football programs all over the west coast are offering scholarships the receiver.
“This whole recruiting process has been a blessing,” said Okwoli. “It’s been hectic at times but that just comes with all of the college coaches coming in and seeing me every day. It’s been a good experience, I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Sometimes we see a domino affect with recruits where once one school finally offer, many other schools begin to follow suit. That has undoubtedly been the case for Okwoli during spring evaluation period 2015 after Washington State became the first school to offer him.
“It was unbelievable,” mentioned Okwoli. “When Washington State offered me and I talked to Coach (Mike) Leach, I grew up watching him when he was at Texas Tech because I knew someone who went there. So I used to always watch Texas Tech play and when I was talking to him on the phone, it was a surreal feeling.”
Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico State, Northern Arizona, UNLV, Utah State and Yale have since followed suit for the young receiver.
“Every time I step out on the field now I just go harder,” Okwoli explained. “I just think I have a lot more expectations of me and I have a lot more to do this upcoming season. So I just need to go out every time I am on the field and go harder and harder to prove myself even more.”
North Canyon behind Okwoli and their stellar junior offensive and defensive tackle Austin Jackson look to have a bounce back year in 2015. Okwoli has been more of a quite presence on the team over the years but now knows if this team is going to improve, he needs to lead by knowing the way, going the way and showing the way.
“Sophomore year I was more of a quiet guy standing in the back and doing what I needed to do on the field,” stated Okwoli. “Now, I’ve needed to take more of a vocal leadership role and to just speak wisdom into these underclassman and guide them the way they should go so we can have a successful season this upcoming year.”