SALINAS – The offers have been flattering – sometimes overwhelming for a 17-year-old to think about.
Nyziah Hunter began to worry when offers poured in from numerous Division I football programs.
One, however, left its mark on what is arguably Salinas High’s highest-recruited player since offensive tackle Brian Thure in 1991.
“I felt like Cal was meant for me,” Hunter said.
Like Thure, Hunter ended up at Berkeley, where the senior receiver committed to being a bear on Thursday.
“I told (Cal) coach Wilcox on Monday that I would sign on Thursday,” Hunter said. “I just felt like 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 hunter, who also received offers from Pac-12 rivals Oregon State and Washington.
“Knowing that family, friends and coaches can come out and support me was important to my decision,” Hunter said.
Hunter, who set a school record at Salinas last spring by reaching the state track and field championships in the 100 meters with a 10.62, felt Cal had ticked a lot of boxes.
During his visit two weeks ago, he found a comfort zone meeting with the coaches, touring the campus and entering historic Memorial Stadium.
“I really liked the relationship the coaches had with their players,” Hunter said. “It felt like they were family. There was a lot of laughter. It was a pleasant experience. It was a good time.”
Hunter has come off a season catching 41 passes for nearly 700 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games for the reigning Gabilan Division champion, Cowboys.
Blessed with superior speed and soft hands, Hunter often faced doubles teams in the second half of last fall’s season.
“Hard work paid off for a great kid,” said Salinas soccer coach Steve Zenk, who learned of his decision in Jamaica. “He’s going somewhere to get a great education, play great football and play the same position on a well-known offense.”
The fact that Cal’s offense is similar to Salinas’ was a selling point for Hunter, who was also recruited by half a dozen colleges as a defense attorney.
“Knowing that I can play on this offense without learning a whole new playbook was a selling point,” Hunter said.
With Hunter attracting so much attention last fall, Zenk found other ways to put his best student on the ball, as evidenced by the fact that he converted 12 carries for 150+ yards and four touchdowns.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Zenk said. “He’s just a great kid. He is a great role model for all our kids in the 831.”
Hunter’s athleticism off the field caught recruiters’ attention when he led Salinas in rebounds on the hardwood and won two league finals contests in track and field.
“It’s been addressed,” Hunter said. “When I was at Colorado State, the coaches asked me what else I do? When I told them, they said, ‘You’re the one’.”
Colorado State and Washington recruited Hunter as a defenseman, where he was used as a lockdown corner for Salinas last year.
“I wanted to be a receiver,” Hunter said. “I mean – touchdowns!”
Cal went 5-7 last year and finished the season by winning three of his last four games, including a decision over USC.
On his visit to Oregon state, one of his hosts was former Carmel tight end JT Byrne, who made an appealing pitch for Hunter.
“I’ve 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 it was the place for me.”
Hunter, who won’t be able to officially sign until November, didn’t want to delay his decision for his senior season. The search for the right school took a load off his shoulders.
“I can go into my senior season and just play football,” Hunter said. “I enjoyed the process. But now I can take a deep breath, relax a little and enjoy the rest of my summer.”