Daniel Heimuli and Noa Ngalu were a defensive tandem that contributed greatly to the Menlo-Atherton football team winning a state championship. Now they will continue to work together as teammates in college at the University of Washington.
Heimuli made his much-anticipated announcement Wednesday at the M-A signing day ceremony in the school’s gym. He sat at a table with the school’s other college-bound senior athletes and thanked the teachers, teammates and family members who helped him along the way to his current position as a highly coveted linebacking prospect with a wealth of possible college destinations to choose from.
After his prepared remarks he turned his attention to the three baseball caps in front of him, representing his three finalists among the 30 or 40 Division I colleges who offered scholarships -- Washington, Oregon and Alabama. He put the Washington cap on and the gym erupted.
“It was the best fit for me and my family,’’ Heimuli said. “I felt that Coach (Chris) Peterson and his staff will help take me to the next level and provide support for me academically.’’
Making his intentions known allowed a burden to be dropped from his shoulders. The social media world had exploded with supporters of his finalists bombarding the M-A senior with twitter messages, both positive and negative, creative and sometimes vulgar. Some of the exchanges between fans of longtime rivals Oregon and Washington got especially nasty.
“I feel relieved,’’ Heimuli said afterwards. “I feel like I’ve lost 100 pounds. I’m grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to get up to UDub and start working for a national championship.’’
Ngalu, a defensive tackle, committed to Washington months ago.
“This is a dream come true to continue playing with my brother,’’ Heimuli said.
Ngalu said he didn’t put pressure on his friend and teammate to join him in Seattle.
“I supported him wherever he wanted to go,’’ Ngalu said. “But us going to Washington together is really great.’’
Heimuli also had a great visit at Oregon where former St. Francis standout Cyrus Habibi-Likio was his host, and was both tempted and flattered by the interest shown by the powerhouse multi-national-championship program at Alabama. In the end the cultural adjustment of relocating to Tuscaloosa might have been too much.
“Being able to play for Alabama would’ve been great,’’ Heimuli said. “But when I made my trip there it just didn’t feel like home.’’
Heimuli capped off his senior season by playing in the Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii and being named defensive MVP.
“At the Poly Bowl all the Washington commits and all the Oregon commits were trying to convince him to come to their school,’’ M-A coach Adhir Ravipati said. “But Washington has been recruiting him the longest, the last two years.’’
You’ll know where to find Ravipati come fall. When not coaching his own team he’ll be finding a way to watch the Huskies.
“I’m really proud of both, really excited they’re going to the same school,’’ he said. “They will have a chance to play right away this fall.’’
Ten other M-A student-athletes also signed their letters of commitment at the signing day ceremony.
Evelyn Calhoon, a four-year wrestler at M-A, signed to play soccer at Brown. Maggie Hall, who played soccer and ran track at M-A, signed for track and field at UC Santa Barbara. Jack Hansen, football and lacrosse at M-A, signed to play lacrosse at Colby. Julie Kispert signed to play soccer at Macalaster College in Minnesota.
Volleyball standout Alicia Letvin signed with UC Davis. Axel Ljunggren is headed to Cornell to study engineering and compete in rowing. John Mills will compete in lacrosse at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. That’s the same school distance-running standout Luke Scandlyn will attend and contribute to the school’s cross country and track teams. Will Olson will join the rowing team at Princeton and Hannah Shaw will attend college in Ohio at Wooster where she will play lacrosse.
Jessica Eagle, a standout sprinter on the M-A track team, was also recognized Wednesday. Eagle has not yet decided on her collegiate destination.
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