This story was first published in September 2015 when Ian Book was a senior at Oak Ridge High School.
Ian Book made the call. He did not send an email or try to talk his parents or coaches at Oak Ridge High School into bailing him out. The senior quarterback realized he would have to take this one.
Any pressure that Book faces Friday night when Oak Ridge plays Vacaville at Tom Zunino Stadium will be nothing compared with what he had to confront into deciding where he will play in college.
Book had hoped to be a man of his word. He made a verbal commitment to Washington State University with every intention of continuing his football career with the Cougars. That will not happen.
Notre Dame saw to that with a scholarship offer to Book even though he was supposedly off the market. That was enough for Book to change his mind, leaving him with one difficult call to make.
Graham Harrell had recruited Book to Washington State. Harrell paid a visit to El Dorado Hills last spring to meet Book’s family and watch Book play lacrosse for Oak Ridge. He was sold on Book.
So was Mike Sanford, who had recruited Book to Boise State until leaving the Broncos to become the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame. Book was torn between Boise State and Washington State until Sanford left, so that news prompted Book to make a commitment to the Cougars.
Book’s future seemed to be a done deal until he got a call one day from Sanford. At first, Book did not think much of the call other than to think Sanford was merely checking in on a former recruit.
That was not the reason for Sanford’s call. After joining Brian Kelly’s staff at Notre Dame, Sanford began to sing the quarterback’s praises and convinced the Fighting Irish to take a look at Book.
An impromptu visit was arranged for Book this summer after he and his parents returned from a Caribbean cruise. They jumped on a flight from Miami to Chicago and then drove to South Bend, Ind.
“I fell in love,” he said, “with Notre Dame.”
Book’s visit ended with a scholarship offer. As much as he might have been tempted to accept it on the spot, Book realized he could not do so without first finding the nerve to call Washington State.
“(Book) was terrified that (the Cougars) would hear the news from someone other than him,” said Oak Ridge coach Eric Cavaliere, a 1987 Vacaville graduate who is 3-0 against his alma mater.
Notre Dame’s offer was put on hold until Book returned home to weigh his options once again. “I needed time. It all happened so fast,” he said. “But when I got home, I didn’t need that much time.”
Turning down scholarship offers from the likes of San Diego State and Nevada was easy for Book because he did not commit to any of those universities. He did so with Washington State, however.
Imagine Harrell’s disappointment felt when Book called to say he had changed his mind. After explaining his decision to Harrell, Book said Harrell then handed the phone to head coach Mike Leach.
“I had to say the whole thing again,” Book said. “It caught them off-guard unfortunately. I could tell they were (mad). That was the hardest part. It was pretty awkward, but I was glad I told them.”
Book’s next call was to Notre Dame. Within seconds, Cavaliere got a call from a Chicago Tribune reporter asking about Book after the Fighting Irish announced Book had committed to Notre Dame. News of Book’s decision spread quickly on the Internet. Cavaliere took a minute to check Book’s highlight video on www.Hudl.com and found 15,000 new hits within 24 hours of the announcement.
Pat Harlow was not surprised to hear that Jake Parks rarely removes his helmet during football practice at UC Davis. That Parks is starting at right guard as a true freshman was hardly breaking news. Harlow predicted as much last fall when he coached Parks at JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano.
Parks will be in a much colder climate than San Juan Capistrano on Saturday when the Aggies travel to face Eastern Washington in the FCS quarterfinals. Roos Field in Cheney should be as chilly as it was on Nov. 10, when the Aggies could not handle the 30-degree temperature or the Eagles in a 59-20 loss. UC Davis will be seeking revenge and its first victory in eight tries against Eastern Washington with its season on the line.
Keeping his helmet on his head might be a good idea for Parks to avoid losing body heat. Then again, he does not take off his helmet all that often. Most of his teammates take advantage of any break during practice to remove their helmets or prop them on top of their heads. Parks does not remove his because doing so at JSerra was prohibited by Harlow, who required his players “to be strapped up all the time.”
“That’s hard to get through to some kids,” Harlow said, “but not Jake. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”
If it takes one to know one, Harlow is the perfect person to ask about a talented offensive lineman. Harlow switched from defense to offense at USC and started at tackle for two seasons. He was selected by the New England Patriots in the first round of the 1991 draft and spent eight seasons in the NFL, including the last three with the Oakland Raiders. The 2018 season was his second at JSerra.
Having a former NFL lineman to show him the ropes has certainly paid dividends for Parks, but Harlow refuses to take any credit. It is not as if Harlow went out of his way to push Parks more than any other player at JSerra. Parks did not need anyone to push him because he “has a really high work ethic. He doesn’t miss an opportunity to work,” Harlow said. “After he committed to Davis, he put in the work in the offseason. And he did it with a purpose.”
That purpose was to ensure he would be ready to battle for a starting job with the Aggies. Harlow and his assistants told Parks last year that they all expected him to start in his first season at UC Davis. Parks must have believed them. Once such an opportunity came his way at UC Davis, he stepped forward and has yet to retreat a single step.
“If anyone tells you that a freshman is going to play 900 snaps, they’re full of it,” said Tim Keane, who coaches the offensive line at UC Davis. “Jake made the decision that he wanted to come here and put himself in an opportunity to start. When the door opened up and there was an opportunity, he took it and has never looked back. He’s holding his own. The moment has never been too big for him.”
Any coach would love a player who eats, drinks and sleeps football. As much as Keane appreciates Parks being an eager beaver, he hopes Parks will eventually make and take the time to get away from the game.
“He’s a guy who will send me text messages and ask him to send him a cut up of some NFL film for him to watch,” Keane said. “When he has an hour of free time, he wants to watch film. That’s just who he is. I want to tell him to go play Fortnite or something.”
Tim Keane has been on his planet long enough to know quite a few folks. What the UC Davis offensive line coach does not know is why several of them decided to send him a text message on Nov. 20. The messages were eerily similar in that each made reference to the 13 football coaches in the Big Sky Conference and how those men made their the all-conference selections.
UC Davis was well represented with quarterback Jake Maier being named the Offensive Player of the Year and wide receiver Keelan Doss being the selected to the first team for the second time. Linebacker Mason Moe, defensive back Vincent White and tight end Wes Preece were second-team selections. Defensive back Isiah Olave, wide receiver Jared Harrell and running back Ulonzo Gilliam were named to the third team. Running back Tehran Thomas, return specialist Namane Modise and punter Dan Whelan earned honorable mention.
A school-record 11 honorees for the Aggies makes it easy to under why Keane was bombarded with messages after the All-Big Sky selections were revealed. Congratulations were in order for second-year head coach Dan Hawkins and each member of his staff. The messages that Keane received were more snippy than congratulatory, however.
Keane was not all bothered that one of his offensive linemen was not honored, but it sure seemed like quite a few of friends were. After all, Maier was sacked just five times in eight Big Sky games. That matched Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for the fewest sacks allowed in the conference even though UC Davis had 246 more passing attempts.
“Maybe it’s just that our offensive line is so good,” Keane said, “that none of them stand out.”
UC Davis shared the Big Sky championship with Eastern Washington and Weber State. Eastern Washington had all five of its starting offensive linemen honored, and Weber State had three. UC Davis did not get as much a pat on the back for an offensive or defensive lineman. Others can be upset about that, but Keane put it in perspective after the text tsunami.
“It was surprised by how many text messages I got. It kind of caught me off guard,” Keane said. “My response is that in the last two years we’ve had the Offensive Player of the Year in the conference. What better compliment for an offensive line than two years in a row having the top offensive player in the conference (Doss won in 2017). It all starts with those five guys.”
Credit will come in time for sophomores Colton Lamson and Kooper Richardson, redshirt freshman Connor Petek and true freshman Jake Parks. Nine of the 11 offensive starters for UC Davis in Saturday’s 23-16 victory over Northern Iowa will return in 2019. Doss and left guard Ramsey Hufford will depart as seniors. A 10-2 record in 2018 might be just the beginning of winning for the Aggies, who will travel to face Eastern Washington in the FCS quarterfinals.
Keane was an offensive lineman at UC Davis from 2003 to 2006 and started at center in his last two seasons. He can speak from experience in acknowledging that obscurity comes with the job description of a lineman. Keane prefers it that way. So do his linemen, especially since Keane said none of them has raised an eyebrow over the all-conference selections.
“Those guys are blue collar,” Keane said. “They live in the shadows. They don’t want any credit.”