Once the NCAA approved an early signing day for football in December, athletes have been figuring out how to use the opportunity. And so have college coaches.

Share story

Turning in the uniform was the worst part.

Not the football jersey and pads. Mount Si senior Cale Millen was prepared to hand over that equipment after quarterbacking the Wildcats to their first state tournament quarterfinals appearance since 2012.

The plan to cap a memorable senior year was to play for the Mount Si basketball team, which is eighth in The Seattle Times rankings.

“I haven’t played since I was a freshmen,” said Millen, who made varsity and was part of the team photo. “I probably would have helped the team mainly on getting rebounds and playing defense — the physical guy down in the post.”

Instead, Millen’s high-school playing days are over.

Once the NCAA approved, in April 2017, an early signing day for football in December, athletes have been figuring out how to use the opportunity. In its second year, there appears to not only be a push by college coaches to turn commitments into signed letters of intent by December, but to get the players enrolled and on campus in January.

Millen, a pro-style quarterback who passed for 3,807 yards and 51 touchdowns this season, was already set to sign his letter to play for Oregon during the three-day period beginning Wednesday. But after a November home visit from Ducks assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo, Millen was persuaded to graduate early and move to Eugene to get started on his college career.

“I didn’t expect to be leaving this early, so it’s going to be weird leaving home,” said Millen, who initially planned to leave in March through the Running Start program. “Rather than pouring everything on me in the spring where I have to go to spring practice as well, I can get used to being a college athlete …(Basketball) would have been fun to have, but it’s time to go to work, again.”

Looking back, former Mount Si receiver Jesiah Irish would suggest signing early and wait to graduate. Irish was part of the throng of players to participate in the inaugural early signing day last year when he signed to suit up for Oregon State.

According to the 247Sports rankings, 37 of the nation’s top-50 prospects signed on the first day of the early signing period in 2017.

But, unlike Millen, Irish did play basketball for Mount Si and ran track, leaving for Corvallis in June.

“It was good because I was able to recruit some of the guys who signed later,” said Irish, who played a role in getting four-star linebacker Matthew Tago to OSU. “Personally, it was a sigh of relief to finish out the senior year knowing where I’m going to go. I could focus on other things and played two more sports to have fun my senior year.”

David Sirmon, father to Washington freshman quarterback Jacob, is skeptical of the process.

Not only because kids could potentially miss out on the whole high-school experience, but also because the student-athlete is signing a binding contract during a period where traditionally the most changes occur in college football.

“It doesn’t achieve a lot of what maybe the intent was, which was to take pressure of the kids,” David said. “It just moves that pressure to early December. … The traditional signing period, a lot would be in place in you would know about grad transfers, you know about coaching changes and retirements from the team. It’s a clearer picture. So, in fact, these kids that are signing early are walking in a muddy picture. For the early-entry kid that has high demand, I think it’s a disservice for them.”

Jacob Sirmon knew his sophomore season at Bothell he was going to play for the Huskies. When the new signing date was announced, he spent the summer getting prepared to graduate early and be on campus in January.

The dreary winter months were rough getting used to new teammates and a complicated playbook, according to David, but now the tight-knit family of seven barely sees the eldest son.

The Sirmons are traveling to the Rose Bowl to be part of the festivities despite Jacob not playing a down this season. For Jacob, it’s always been about starting the new chapter in his playing career and the early signing day allows that to happen.

Richland senior lineman Aric Davison has the same mentality. The four-year starter helped the Bombers win the 2017 Class 4A state championship and is ready to sign his letter Wednesday to play for Utah State.

“I am taking seven classes,” said Aric of getting the necessary credits to graduate early. He plans to major in engineering at Utah State.

“But I’m excited to start something new and get going with my life,” Davison continued. “A lot of people during the second semester probably lose focus of what they’re doing, especially if you’re going to play a Division I sport. This gives me an opportunity to be ready.”