OTHELLO — Isaiah Perez couldn’t stop smiling as he sat looking at his cell phone just before 9 a.m. Thursday morning.
A true man of his generation, he’s sent thousands of text messages, but this one was different. This was THE TEXT that would change his world and rock his life. He chose his words carefully. He double-checked the spelling, didn’t want any fat-fingered typos in this one.
He took a deep breath, then poked send with the index finger of a 6-foot-3, 245-pound man. And with that, the No. 21 player in the state of Washington and the No. 69 strong-side defensive end in the country announced to the world he has committed to Brigham Young University to play football for Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake.
“My phone blew up (with tweets of congratulations),” he said that afternoon with a smile that threatened to wrap around his head and a sense of relief that didn’t need words.
Perez and his mom and dad, Mandi and Gordy, built a steady stream of frequent flier miles with trips to Los Angeles, Tempe, Arizona, Eugene, Oregon, Provo, Utah, Seattle and Pullman over the past several months. But Brigham Young felt right, is right for a guy from a farming community in central Washington.
“I actually made the commitment last week. But I wanted to make sure the other coaches that showed interest in me knew my intentions, hearing it straight from me, instead of seeing it on Twitter,” said Perez, who came on BYU’s radar after a camp last year as a sophomore. “We were at camp talking with some of the coaches and Coach Sitake stopped and introduced himself to me and my parents. He was very personal.
“I don’t know if a head coach ever came over and introduced himself to my parents and carried on a conversation. That was very important to me. BYU produces great people, not only great football players, but they focus making great men, great fathers and community leaders.”
Perez has family ties to Brigham Young. His uncles Ryan (2001-02) and Eddie Keele (2003-06) both played at Brigham Young. Whatever their advice, like his parents, the decision was left up to Isaiah.
“I always knew I wanted to play college football, but to have all those colleges, football people, interested is very exciting,” he said. “I liked the whole process, texts, letters in the mail, letters coming to the school. I was invited to schools and had a chance to see some games. I just kept my options open.
“But I feel like BYU can help me pursue my dreams outside of football and lead me to where I want to be in life. I feel like I could fit in great there and it’s where I want to spend the next four years of my life.”
At 6-3, 245 he has been primarily a defensive end for the Othello Huskies. He suspects he’ll stay at the position, rather than make the shift to outside linebacker.
“They know and I know I have a lot more to work on, but I think they saw the potential,” said Perez, who has been active in elite 7v7 to work on agility and pass coverage. “I don’t consider myself an edge rusher, I just get in there and play.
“But I feel like my speed and agility plays a big role in my game. Once I get to college I’ll have to put on some weight and get stronger.”
Like family that tells you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear, BYU officials have already talked to him about picking it up in the classroom, despite carrying a 3.2 grade-point average.
“I haven’t decided what I want to major in yet, but they’ve already talked to me about picking up my grades,” said Perez, who will participate in the Adidas West Regional 7v7 tournament this weekend. “I sloughed off a little bit my freshman and sophomore years, but I’m working on it now.”
Perez is a Central Washington Athletic Conference North two-time Defensive Player of the Year, a 2A all-state selection. He recently won his second consecutive 2A 285-pound state championship at the Mat Classic.
He has another year of high school, probably wrestle a little bit at the national level this summer, but right now it feels like the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders. Yep, he’s going to be a Coug.
“I’ll always bleed red and black, but I kind of like wearing blue now,” he said with a smile that’s been there since the phone blew up and Othello High School announced his decision over the school intercom early this morning.