Salinas wide receiver Nyziah Hunter commits to Cal – Monterey Herald
SALINAS — The offers were flattering — sometimes overwhelming for a 17-year-old to ponder.
Anxiety was starting to mount for Nyziah Hunter, as offers from many Division I football programs filtered through.
One, however, left a mark for arguably Salinas High’s most recruited player since offensive tackle Brian Thure in 1991.
“I felt Cal was right for me,” Hunter said.
Like Thure, Hunter landed at Berkeley, where the senior receiver pledged Thursday to be a Bear.
“I told coach (Cal) Wilcox on Monday that I was going to commit on Thursday,” Hunter said. “I just felt the end of the month was the perfect time to make my decision.”
With that came a sense of relief for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound fighter, who also had offers from Pac-12 rivals Oregon State and Washington.
“Knowing that my family, friends and coaches can come and support me was important to me in my decision,” Hunter said.
Hunter, who set a school record last spring in Salinas by reaching the state track and field championships in the 100 yards at 10.62, said Cal ticked a lot of boxes.
During his visit two weeks ago, he found a comfort zone meeting the coaches, touring the campus and setting foot in historic Memorial Stadium.
“I really liked the relationship the coaches had with their players,” Hunter said. “It felt like they were a family. There was a lot of laughter. It was a nice experience. It was a good time.”
Hunter is coming off a season in which he caught 41 passes for nearly 700 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games for the defending Gabilan Division champion Cowboys.
Boasting breakaway speed and soft hands, Hunter often encountered doubles teams in the second half of the season last fall.
“Hard work has paid off for a great kid,” said Salinas football coach Steve Zenk, who learned of his decision while in Jamaica. “He’s going somewhere to get a great education, play a great brand of football and play in the same position in a familiar offense.”
The fact that Cal’s offense was similar to Salinas’ was a selling point for Hunter, who was also drafted as a defensive back by half a dozen colleges.
“Knowing that I can make plays in this offense without learning a whole new playbook was a selling point,” Hunter said.
With Hunter garnering so much attention last fall, Zenk found other ways to get the ball for his top student, as evidenced by the fact that he turned 12 carries into over 150 yards and four touchdowns. .
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Zenk said. “He’s just a great boy. He’s a great role model for all of our kids at 831.”
Hunter’s athleticism off the football field caught the eye of scouts as he led Salinas in rebounds on the hardwood and won two events in the on-track league finals.
“It was brought up,” Hunter said. “When I was at Colorado State, the coaches asked me what else I did? When I told them, they said ‘it’s you.
Colorado State and Washington both signed Hunter as a defensive back, where he was used last year as a corner lock for Salinas.
“I wanted to be a catcher,” Hunter said. “I mean – affected!”
Cal went 5-7 last year, closing the season winning three of its last four games, including a decision against USC.
During his visit to Oregon State, one of his hosts was former Carmel tight end JT Byrne, who delivered a compelling pitch to Hunter.
“I spent a lot of time with JT,” Hunter said. “After the visit, it was a consideration. I liked what Oregon State offered. But after visiting Cal, I knew he was the right person for me.
Hunter, who can’t officially sign until November, didn’t want to delay his decision until his senior season. Finding the right school took a weight off her shoulders.
“I can go into my senior season and just play football,” Hunter said. “I enjoyed the process. But now I can breathe deeply, relax a bit and enjoy the rest of my summer.