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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Brighton star is weighing his options

Published: Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010 9:53 p.m. MST

Editor's note: This is the first in a four-part series leading up to Wednesday's National Letter of Intent Day.

Ricky Heimuli dresses the part of a kid who would fit in great at UCLA.

Regardless of the gloomy winter weather outside, the highly-recruited Brighton lineman is almost always wearing shorts, a T-shirt and sneakers. Along with the backpack he's usually lugging around, Heimuli already looks like a Southern California college student.

Then again, why would the extremely sought-after 280-pound lineman want to play for UCLA when he could sign with the University of Utah to play alongside first cousin Latu Heimuli, another highly-recruited lineman who signed with the Utes out of Highland High School last year?

Then again, with National Signing Day roughly 72 hours away, and with all the interest Oregon has shown, why wouldn't Heimuli want to sign with the Pac-10 champion Ducks?

And finally, Washington is a program on the rise, guided by former BYU gunslinger Steve Sarkisian, and what's not to love about spending four to five years on one of the nicest college campuses in America?

These are among the many thoughts racing through the 18-year-old's head with decision day just around the corner.

"I am nervous, because right now I'm still up in the air. I still don't have a clue where I'm going yet," said Heimuli. "But I have a feeling when it comes down to it, I'll make the right choice for what's best for me."

That decision could make or break the 2010 recruiting class for any of the four schools. Heimuli is the 10th-ranked defensive tackle in the country, according to Scout.com, and Rivals.com ranks him eighth.

Heimuli returns from Seattle today after making his last recruiting visit to the University of Washington. Beginning tonight or Monday, Heimuli's father Okusitino Heimuli said his son will begin whittling schools off the list and making thank-you-but-no-thank-you phone calls to the disappointed.

With UCLA, Oregon, Washington and Utah all making official visits to the Heimuli home in Glendale this past week, Okusitino Heimuli has sensed his son is tiring of the recruiting process. Plus, he's still receiving calls from schools like Penn State and West Virginia, wondering if they can sway his decision.

The stress makes you wonder why Heimuli insists on waiting until the bitter end to make a decision when so many of his peers preferred to commit early. He believes weighing his options thoroughly was just the right thing to do.

"Some people rush into it, and when it comes down to that point they feel they may have made a mistake. I feel that using as much time as possible gives me the chance to actually think each school through, give each school the opportunity they deserve for taking the time out and for sacrificing one of their scholarships," said Heimuli.

Heimuli's father is an LDS bishop, and serving an LDS mission like his two older brothers and older sister did after he finishes his freshman year of college is very important to the well-spoken Heimuli. The remaining four schools on Heimuli's list support his desire to take a two-year hiatus from football.

With decision hour nearly here, Heimuli shared his thoughts on the positives that Oregon, UCLA, Utah and Washington have to offer.

"Some of the pros that I feel UCLA has, probably the biggest one is Norm Chow," said Heimuli. "He knows how to work the Polynesian players, he's also LDS just like me, so he'll be sure to help me with the decision of my mission. He's just a big help in every aspect."

Chow is the offensive coordinator at UCLA, but locally he's known best for the 27 years he served as an assistant coach at BYU from 1973 to 1999.

Heimuli's interest in the University of Washington is also tied loosely to BYU.

"Coach Sark, he played here at BYU so he gets the mission process. He knows how to work with Polynesians cause he played a lot with them. Just the fact that he understands the standpoint that I'm trying to go on a mission, and he's very supportive of that," said Heimuli.

As for the Pac-10 champs, Heimuli really likes the Oregon coaching staff, a topic he discussed with Oregon senior defensive end Will Tukuafu, who graduated from East High School in 2002.

"He had a lot of good things to say about coach (Chip) Kelly, coach (Jerry) Azzinaro, pretty much the whole defensive staff," said Heimuli. "He said they're very supportive. He said they have a very nice academic setup as well."

Lastly, the positives of signing with the University of Utah are obvious. The second-youngest of six siblings, Heimuli is very close to his family and he'd love to have them in the stands at Rice-Eccles Stadium for all of his home games.

In addition, he has a unique bond with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

"I grew close with the Whittingham family. I played at Brighton with Alex (Whittingham), and pretty much every weekend we would go hang out at the Whittingham house," said Heimuli.

By Wednesday, he'll decide that one of these positives outweighs the others and he'll officially sign his National Letter of Intent at a ceremony at Brighton High School at 10 a.m.

Until then, he's keeping his options open until the last minute.

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