The one they call “Hollywood” is ready for his close-up.
By all accounts, the pressure doesn’t get to Rainier Beach senior cornerback Caleb Presley, the consensus top-ranked player in Washington. 247Sports.com has him 10th nationally at cornerback and 114th overall. Eyes have followed him since he was a freshman.
Previews, perhaps, of this year’s award-winning performance.
“He’s worked so much off-camera, behind the scenes,” teammate Scottre Humphrey said, keeping the analogy going.
“He’s a humble guy, but at times he can be ‘Hollywood.’”
The nickname stems from childhood when Presley’s uncle teased him for wearing his sunglasses around the house, even at night — which still happens, for the record. As he got older, he soured on it.
“It just gives you a bad stigma. Sometimes people think you’re too good for them,” Presley said. “I feel like I’m more of a community person. I’m always trying to look out for my peers, and I don’t want them to feel like I’m too big, too ‘Hollywood,’ to interact with my friends and family.”
But the reviews are in. He is No. 1, and opponents look at him differently. Embracing the hype to some extent just makes sense.
UCLA was one of the last six schools on his list, but Presley isn’t headed to Hollywood after helping Rainier Beach to what they hope is a deep playoff run. The 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back craves sunshine but picked the moody skies of Eugene, Oregon.
“There’s nothing like waking up to that wet concrete in the morning before practice,” Presley said. “I love it.”
Oregon offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr. — himself a five-star recruit out of Rainier Beach — texted him often, pushing the idea of a reunion.
Louisiana State, Washington, Michigan State and Texas A&M were also front-runners, but Presley committed to the Ducks on July 5, a date of personal significance as it was his late auntie’s birthday. Eugene felt familiar enough, like a place where he could be the best version of himself.
After years of being pressured into making an early decision, it was a relief to be finished with the process.
“It was more crazy than I thought it would be,” Presley said. “I knew I wanted to be a collegiate athlete, but I didn’t know what else came along with it.
“This is where I want to build my legacy, my future. I’m fully at peace now.”
The fourth of five siblings, Presley followed his older brother Israel to a summer workout at Rainier Beach. Presley remembers hanging with the high schoolers and coach Corey Sampson selling him on the idea that he could be “the guy.” The Vikings’ longtime coach was already suspecting Presley might even start as a freshman, before realizing he was only a rising eighth grader.
“On the field, he’s a different breed,” Sampson said. “He’s a once-in-an-every-10-or-15-years type of guy.”
Presley was already set on Eastside Catholic, however. After winning a state championship there as a freshman, he transferred to the school Israel and their dad attended for his junior year. The spotlight continued to crank his direction, and after Lincoln defensive lineman Jayden Wayne announced he would finish his high-school career at IMG Academy in Florida, Presley moved into the top spot.
The Vikings finished 6-4 overall (3-2 Metro League) last season and fell to undefeated eventual champion Bellevue in the state quarterfinals. They last made it to the Class 3A championship game in 2017 but O’Dea took the title.
Presley wants to be the Gatorade State Player of the Year and, of course, help Rainier Beach back to the state final. He’s picked his school, and now another goal is to get his teammates more looks.
Uncommitted four-year starters Humphrey — whom Sampson called a “bull in the backfield” — and Dallas Afalava return for another run. So does starting quarterback Chance Guadiz, who passed for 2,500 yards with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Vikings open the season Friday at Lynnwood. Presley has the state enthralled. Sampson said “Hollywood” wants the nation to feel the same way.
“I’m trying to leave no room for debate,” Presley said.
“Now that I have the spotlight on me, I want to go out and show that I’m the very best.”