The wait is over.
The hope has faded.
J.T. Tuimoloau will not be a Washington Husky.
On the Fourth of July, Tuimoloau — the No. 1 player in the 2021 class — announced he will enroll at Ohio State.
The 6-foot-5, 277-pound Eastside Catholic defensive lineman chose the Buckeyes over fellow finalists Washington, Oregon and USC. He declined to sign a national letter of intent in December and February in order to take official visits this summer, after a nearly 15-month recruiting dead period was lifted. He subsequently completed official visits to his final four schools before canceling an Alabama visit and announcing his decision.
“We went out there (to Ohio State for an official visit) as a family — me, mom, dad, and my little brother. For it being the first time in Columbus, we didn’t know what to expect. But it just felt like home,” Tuimoloau said on CBS HQ, surrounded by family members. “The people were very genuine. And with the players, it felt like a brotherhood.”
Unfortunately for Husky fans, this is an all-too-familiar feeling. UW managed to sign four of the top eight players in the state in 2021, but five-star wide receiver Emeka Egbuka — the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation, No. 2 player in Washington and No. 8 overall prospect — enrolled early at Ohio State. Four-star Tacoma linebacker Julien Simon (USC) and Kennedy Catholic wide receiver Junior Alexander (Arizona State) landed at Pac-12 competitors.
In the past 10 classes, the Huskies have held onto just two of seven five-star recruits from within their own borders — Sam Huard in 2021, and Kennedy Catholic outside linebacker Sav’ell Smalls in 2020.
Brandon Huffman, 247Sports’ national recruiting editor, tweeted Sunday that Tuimoloau is “hands down the best recruit I’ve seen in the state of Washington” in his 19 classes on the job.
Another national recruit from Eastside Catholic, four-star 2020 wide receiver Gee Scott Jr., signed with Ohio State despite a late offer from UW. In recent years, the Crusaders have produced a slew of blue-chip recruits — including 2020 safety Ayden Hector (currently in transfer portal), 2020 running back Sam Adams II (UW), 2020 tight end D.J. Rogers (Texas Christian), 2017 tight end Hunter Bryant (UW) and 2016 linebacker Brandon Wellington (UW).
Meanwhile, UW’s 2021 class — which was ranked sixth in the Pac-12 and 36th nationally by the 247Sports Composite — did include Huard, Kennedy Catholic’s five-star quarterback, O’Dea four-star offensive lineman Owen Prentice, Kennedy Catholic four-star wide receiver Jabez Tinae and four-star Bethel linebacker Will Latu. But it might ultimately be marred by its misses.
And no miss was bigger — literally and figuratively — than Tuimoloau.
His departure stings in more ways than one. UW also was the first school to offer Tuimoloau in two separate sports, furnishing a football offer three games into his freshman season in 2017 before adding a basketball offer in May 2020. He later added football offers from Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and more.
Of course, the attention was warranted.
“As great of a player as he is, he’s just as great of a kid off the field — an outstanding student, a leader in his community, a leader on his campus, a leader in his church,” Huffman said on CBS HQ on Sunday. “He’s everything you want a guy to be off the field.
“But then when you get him on the field, you see why he is an elite pass-rusher — a wire-to-wire No. 1 player on 247Sports. When we did our first ranking in the summer of 2018, he was at No. 1. When we did the final ranking, he was at No. 1. And every subsequent ranking in the middle, he was No. 1. He’s an elite five-star player, but really an elite five-star person off the field as well — and much of that credit goes to his family and his support system around him.”
Added 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong: “This is a prospect you obviously wait on, one of the more special defensive linemen to come out in the last five to 10 years.”
The Huskies, meanwhile, signed a trio of three-star defensive linemen in 2021: Kuao Peihopa, Voi Tunuufi and Siaosi Finau. They earned a commitment from 2022 four-star Salt Lake defensive tackle Ben Roberts last week as well.
And yet, the Evergreen State’s next five-star standout — 2022 Rainier Beach offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr. — is currently uncommitted.
In the recruiting world, hope fades, then regenerates.
And while one wait ends, another continues.