January 29, 2012
Arik Armstead picks Oregon in front of overflow setting in family church

Arik Armstead made it official in a place of family comfort - the family church - today as he boiled down his college football recruitment.

He will be an Oregon Duck, and let Duck Nation and Eugene in general rejoice as they have landed an exceptional talent who is equally as humble and genuine.

Pleasant Grove High School All-American defensive end, all 6-foot-8 and 295 pounds of him, made his announcement at The House Christian Church on Broadway in Sacramento in front of an overflow gathering of family, friends, teammates, coaches and a throng of media.

Why all the hub-bub? Armstead is a Top 5 national recruit, No. 1 in some circles because of his size, athleticism and terrific upside. And he has emerged as the all-time No. 1 Sacramento-area recruit in this sport - more than tailback Kevin Willhite of Cordova in 1982 when Willhite was the National Player of the Year by five publications and went to Oregon.

A generation later, this rates as another home run hit for the Ducks. In 1982, the Ducks were a down-and-out suffering program trying to salvage seasons under newish coach Rich Brooks, whose best friend growing up was Max Miller, Willhite's prep coach.

Armstead has no such ties to Oregon, but he did grow fond of Ducks coach Chip Kelly during the recruiting process, including a home visit last week. In that meeting, Kelly told Armstead he could not guarantee that he would be the Oregon coach during Armstead's entire college career, and that honesty and candor refreshed Armstead.

"I liked that," Armstead said. "So many coaches say different things or they say bad things about other programs. I'm really happy with my decision. Oregon's a great school, a great program.

"I think I'll really fit in there. They also have the best marketing program and if I don't make it in the NFL or NBA - or both - I can fall back on that."

Ah, basketball. Armstead will also play hoops for the Ducks. He made it known from the start of his recruiting process that he wanted to be a dual-sport performer, never mind the potential wear-and-tear on the body.

"I'm used to it," Armstead said.

Armstead gutted out a tender rotator cuff all season. He played just the first quarter of the season healthy, yet insisted on playing for his teammates and school, a testament to his character, his Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico said.

"I appreciated and the staff appreciated that he played through that injury, and he played both ways," Cattolico said. "He was phenomenal," Cattolico said. "He played one quarter of the season healthy. He played 120 or so snaps each Friday night, and practices. I'm no math major but that's a big number."

Armstead's also considered Cal, Washington, Auburn, Notre Dame and UCLA.

Cal was a front runner but when defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi left for Washington, that opened things up all over again, and then the Chip Kelly candor factor. So now he's a Duck.

A highlight of the countdown to his ultimate choice, as he spoke about the strong points of each college, was pastor Bob Balian, racing to Armstead and emphatically placing down three credit cards as a fun inducement for him to pick UCLA. Balian was a basketball and baseball star at Kennedy High 30 years ago and played baseball at UCLA.
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Bee staff writers Joe Davidson and Bill Paterson provide news, analysis and insight on the area high school sports scene in their Prep Blog. Have a question to ask them? Send them an email any time at jdavidson@sacbee.com or bpaterson@sacbee.com.

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