Some recruiters were willing to wait for the services of standout Mead defensive end Ben Voigtlaender.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound edge rusher drew interest from multiple Pac-12 and Football Bowl Subdivision schools during a high school career that included two first-team all-state selections and Greater Spokane League Defensive Player of the Year distinction.
But when Voigtlaender voiced his plans to pursue a two-year mission with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this summer, he said some schools backed off.
“Ultimately, I know I am doing the right thing by serving my mission first,” said Voigtlaender, who was also one of the top 4A wrestlers in his weight class as a junior. “My religion is more important to me than football.”
Eastern Washington, Montana State, Idaho and Georgetown offered the three-star recruit a scholarship, according to 247sports.com, though he won’t wear pads again until 2022.
He signed a letter of intent with the nearby Eagles on Wednesday, National Signing Day, one of the Eagles’ 24 scholarship recruits and three preferred walk-ons in the 2020 recruiting class. Fifteen signed in December during the early signing period.
Voigtlaender, the lone Spokane-area product in Eastern’s sizable recruiting class, likes its 3-4 scheme that employs a “buck” linebacker, essentially a defensive end/linebacker hybrid.
“EWU was the first school to contact me after my sophomore season,” Voigtlaender said. “It’s a team that wins, is a storied program and has a lot of good people. I’ve developed a good relationship with the defensive coordinator, Eti Ena, who is also the defensive ends coach, as well as head coach Aaron Best and defensive line coach Brian Strandley.”
Voigtlaender gave an oral commitment to Eastern Washington last week, a recruiting process Best said “kind of came down to the bitter end.”
“He has had summer camp experience here, so we have had our eyes on him during the month of June,” Best said. “Our relationship with him only improved once we got to know Ben a little bit more. His abilities both on and off the field can make us a better team and better community service members as we go forward.”
Voigtlaender recently had shoulder surgery due to a torn labrum he sustained in a football game in September. He played with the injury the remainder of the season.
“My mission will give me more time to heal,” he said. “And we’re allowed to work out one hour a day, so I can stay in shape and join this great recruiting class (in 2022).”
The other recruits who signed with the Eagles on Wednesday:
Parker Johnson, quarterback: The Cascade Christian (Puyallup, Washington) star was a four-year starter who passed for 8,953 career yards and 83 touchdowns. He also rushed for 765 career yards and 14 touchdowns. Parker, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, originally committed to Yale and was widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in Washington despite playing at the 1A level. Johnson is the second QB in the Eagles’ recruiting class, joining another small-school product, Gooding, Idaho, star and three-star recruit Shane Jennings.
Taalefili Fata, defensive end: A three-star recruit out of Clover Park (Lakewood, Washington), Fata, who is listed at 6-3 and 225 pounds, was a two-way standout and was named the 2A South Puget Sound League Offensive Lineman of the Year.
LeAndre Gaines, defensive end: The W.F. West (Chehalis, Wash.) product was a first-team all-state selection and the 2A Evergreen League’s Defensive MVP. The 6-3, 240-pound Gaines had 43 tackles, 13 for a loss and six sacks as a senior and played wide receiver and defensive end.
Justice Jackson, running back: A three-star recruit from Brentwood, California, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound speedster was an All-Bay Valley selection at receiver as a senior at Liberty High and a two-time all-league running back during his time at Berean Christian.
Conner O’Farrell, linebacker: O’Farrell comes to Cheney by way of Alaska, where he starred at Service High School in Anchorage. O’Farrell (6-foot, 210 pounds) was the Alaska Coaches Association Defensive Player of the Year after a senior season of 121 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, 16 quarterback hurries and 3 1/2 sacks.
Malaki Roberson, wide receiver: Hauled in a combined 146 receptions for 2,361 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior and senior at Graham-Kapowsin (Graham, Wash.). The 4A all-state selection was also the South Puget Sound League MVP in 2019 and set a school record for receptions (74) in 2018.
Cage Schenck, cornerback: A standout at Woodinville (Wash.) as a defensive back, wide receiver and returner, Schenck was all-state on defense after totaling 34 tackles and three interceptions as a senior. Woodinville advanced to the 4A semifinals last season.
DaJean Wells, cornerback: Wells was the Metro League Sound Division MVP after starring at cornerback and receiver at Ballard High in Seattle. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound speedster totaled 10 catches for 515 yards and four touchdowns as a senior and also had a 97-yard kickoff return. Wells had 20 tackles on defense and two interceptions, one ran back for a touchdown.
The Eagles also announced three preferred walk-ons, including Sunnyside (Wash.) wide receiver Mike Rivera, Moapa Valley (Nevada) offensive lineman Kellen Wallace and Skyview (Vancouver, Wash.) linebacker Ahmani Williams.
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