Tyler Gray was all set to go.
On Wednesday, the former Templeton High football star and his parents were about an hour from making the drive to Los Angeles, where Gray was scheduled to hop on a plane headed to the University of Hawaii to begin his delayed college football career, when the family got a call that changed everything.
By the end of the day, Gray had committed to Boise State.
And by Thursday morning, he signed his National Letter of Intent to play outside linebacker for the nationally ranked Broncos, faxed over the paperwork and later called Hawaii — which put Gray at grayshirt status last fall, making him available for other schools because he was not officially enrolled — to inform the coaching staff that he had to cancel his flight to Honolulu.
He said the Warriors weren’t upset and wished him well.
The decision was aided by the fact that Hawaii hired Norm Chow last month as the head coach, which meant a new coaching staff. The Hawaii coaches who recruited Gray were let go after head coach Greg McMackin resigned after a 6-7 season.
But Gray was set to become a Warrior. Until the Broncos came calling.
“I was surprised,” he said. “I didn’t really talk to them at all throughout high school. It was the 11th hour. They called us and said they’d like to offer a scholarship. With the Hawaii coaching staff leaving, I made the decision to go with Boise State.”
He sent the Broncos game film of his senior year at Templeton in 2010, in which he collected 143 tackles and five sacks to go along with 1,628 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns to lead the Eagles to their first CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division semifinal appearance. But he never heard back.
He signed with Hawaii last February, but the Warriors decided to give him grayshirt status. That meant Gray would delay his enrollment and stay home to to build on his 6-foot-3, 230-pound frame. And then he heard about McMackin’s resignation, changing his perception of being a college football player.
“He had some concerns after the coaching changes at Hawaii,” said his father, Steve. “He was definitely opened to looking at other schools.”
But Gray stayed committed to the Warriors, evident by his Wednesday’s plans that included driving to Los Angeles to spend the night before flying out to Hawaii in the morning. His speed and conditioning coach, John Spells, called and told the family about Boise State’s interest.
After learning Gray had grayshirted, the Broncos finally studied his game film. They liked what they saw. Gray spoke to assistant coach Robert Prince, who asked, “Do you want to play for Boise State?”
Gray said yes.
He switched schools because he recognized stability in Boise State, which recently signed coach Chris Petersen to a new five-year deal designed to keep him through 2017. It also doesn’t hurt that the Broncos have had unprecedented success for a non-BCS school, with a 73-6 record and two BCS bowl victories under Petersen. They’re joining the Big East Conference starting next year for football only.
“I haven’t been to the school, but I know when I get there it’s going to be a good change,” said Gray next week for Boise, Idaho, to start school. “I have to work for everything and it has to be the best of my ability. I’m going to have to make sure I’m on top of everything.”
The news about Gray’s move to Boise State spread quickly in Templeton. Templeton head coach Dan Loney, who was Gray’s offensive coordinator in 2010, learned about the decision from his players.
“I think it went to somebody that really deserves it,” Loney said of the scholarship offer. “He worked his tail off since I met him back as a junior. He was always in the weight room. He was always running. He was always trying to better himself.”