SALINAS – The offers were flattering — at times overwhelming for a 17-year-old to ponder.
Anxiety was beginning to build for Nyziah Hunter, as offers from a numerous Division I football programs were filtering in.
One, however, left an imprint for arguably the highest recruited player from Salinas High since offensive tackle Brian Thure in 1991.
“I felt Cal was meant for me,” Hunter said.
Like Thure, Hunter has landed in Berkeley, where the senior receiver committed Thursday to be a Bear.
“I told (Cal) coach Wilcox on Monday that I was going to commit on Thursday,” Hunter said. “I just felt the end of the month was the perfect time to make my decision.”
With it came a sense of relief for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hunter, who also received offers from Pac-12 rivals Oregon State and Washington.
“Knowing I can have family, friends and coaches come up and support me was important to me in my decision,’’ Hunter said.
Hunter, who set a school record this past spring at Salinas in reaching the state track and field championships in the 100 meters at 10.62, felt Cal checked a lot of boxes.
Upon his visit two weeks ago, he found a comfort zone in meeting with the coaches, touring the campus and stepping foot into historic Memorial Stadium.
“I really liked the relationship the coaches had with their players,” Hunter said. “It felt like they were a family. There was a lot of laughter. It was an enjoyable experience. It was a good time.”
Hunter is coming off a season in which he caught 41 passes for nearly 700 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games for the reigning Gabilan Division champion Cowboys.
Blessed with breakaway speed and soft hands, Hunter often encountered doubles teams in the second half of the season last fall.
“Hard work paid off for a great kid,” said Salinas football coach Steve Zenk, who learned of his decision while in Jamaica. “He’s going somewhere to get a great education, play a great brand of football and play the same position in a familiar offense.”
The fact that Cal’s offense is similar to Salinas’ was a selling point for Hunter, who was also recruited as a defensive back by a half dozen colleges.
“Knowing I can make plays in this offense without learning a completely new playbook was a selling point,” Hunter said.
With Hunter drawing so much attention last fall, Zenk found other ways to get his prize pupil the ball, as evident by him turning 12 carries into 150 plus yards and four touchdowns.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Zenk said. “He’s just a great kid. He’s a great role model for all our kids in the 831.”
Hunter’s athleticism off the football field caught the attention of recruiters as he led Salinas in rebounds on the hardwood and won a pair of events at the league finals in track.
“It was brought up,” Hunter said. “When I was at Colorado State, the coaches asked what else do I do? When I told them, they said ‘you’re the one’.”
Colorado State and Washington both recruited Hunter as a defensive back, where he was used last year as a lockdown corner for Salinas.
“I wanted to be a receiver,” Hunter said. “I mean – touchdowns!”
Cal went 5-7 last year, closing the season by winning three of its final four games, including a decision over USC.
On his visit to Oregon State, one of his hosts was former Carmel tight end J.T. Byrne, who made an appealing pitch to Hunter.
“I spent a lot of time with J.T.,” Hunter said. “After the visit, it was a consideration. I liked what Oregon State offered. But after visiting Cal, I knew it was the right fit for me.”
Hunter, who can’t officially sign until November, did not want to delay his decision going into his senior season. Finding the right school has lifted a weight off his shoulders.
“I can go into my senior season and just play football,” Hunter said. “I enjoyed the process. But now I can take a deep breath, relax a little and enjoy the rest of my summer.”
Contributed by local news sources