Roll the Dice: How UW Has Pulled the Top Players from Las Vegas

The Huskies have established themselves as a major player for the top high school football players in Nevada.
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Sir Mells and Germie Bernard were freshmen football players at Liberty High School in Henderson, Nevada, when they watched all the recruiting attention showered on teammate Troy Fautanu.

It left them in awe.

"I remember seeing the Washington coaches talking to Troy and I told Germie, 'One day that's going to be us,' " said Mells, now a junior defensive tackle for Liberty.

Fautanu now plays for the Huskies and Mells, Bernard and Anthony Jones, a two-way end and one-time transfer from Arbor View High in Las Vegas, each have UW offers as of Thanksgiving day. Bernard is committed to Jimmy Lake's program.

Notre Dame, USC and Ohio State have regularly recruited power Bishop Gorman High School and the rest of Nevada because and the state's top players want to play for Power 5 college programs and there are none in the state.

While some colleges recruit Nevada on their way to Texas or California, the Huskies have conducted extensive player evaluations they get to know these guys.

The recruits noticed.

"We have a lot of talent here in Las Vegas, it's not just California, Florida or Texas," Mells said. "Washington is known for not just finding talent, but developing talent that's ready for the next level."

Sometimes the Nevada talent finds Washington, too.

Current starting Husky inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio, ignored by Power 5 schools, took matters into his own hands and offered his services to the Huskies after his senior season. Ulofoshio received a preferred walk-on opportunity.  

Former Husky coach Steve Sarkisian first identified Gorman as a place he wanted to tap for talent, and he secured a commitment from quarterback Tate Martell — when he was just 14.  Martell eventually signed with Ohio State and transferred to Miami, where he opted out this season. 

Yet the ascension of Bishop Gorman raised the profile of high school football in the state of Nevada. Former UW coach Chris Petersen took the connection even farther, forging relationships with Nevada players and coaches instead of simply handing out offers.  

"I've been speaking with coaches at Washington since October of last year," Jones said. 

As a two-way player at Liberty, Jones said he and his family speak with multiple Washington coaches regularly — usually discussing family life and academics more than football.

"Both coaches were on the phone when they offered me," Jones said, referring to UW defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski and tight end coach Derham Cato. "Once Washington offered me, other schools came out of nowhere and I'm like, 'Where were you guys before?' "

Besides Ulofoshio, the Huskies signed 2018 linebacker Ale Kaho, a Reno recruit who backed out of his commitment and joined Alabama, where he has been a special-teams player for three years. The following year, the UW landed Fautanu, the No. 1 player in the state from Liberty High. More recently, the Huskies added Bishop Gorman wide receiver Rome Odunze, who is playing as a true freshman. 

"Washington hasn't overlooked Las Vegas," Jones said. "The coaching staff built a relationship with me long before they offered me. They're not like other schools that will text you one week and ghost you the next."

Bernard has already committed to the Huskies for 2022, and Jones and Mells are leaning heavily toward Washington. Mells, Jones, Bernard together recently visited Seattle, walked the campus and enjoyed the temperate climate. It's a nice change form Nevada.

"Practicing in 110-degree heat in the summer isn't great," Mells said. "But the Washington fans bring the heat."