Tonight, we found out that WSU has missed out on one of its top remaining targets for the 2015 class: Three-star Steilacoom linebacker Fotu Leiato picked Oregon over the Cougars, Oklahoma, Michigan State and UCLA.
Presuming he doesn't have a change of heart between now and signing day on February 4 (and he appears absolutely committed to his decision), this culminates what has been one of the crazier -- and cooler -- recruiting stories you'll ever see.
Back when CougCenter first wrote about Leiato and his "impressively violent highlight video," he had recently received an offer from Washington State -- his first Power 5 offer after previously only drawing interest from Mountain West schools. His next best offer was Wyoming. That amazing highlight video had just a few hundred views on Hudl.
It's not an exaggeration to say that the viral nature of Leiato's video is what ultimately landed him at Oregon. As the video began to make the rounds -- our post was eventually shared more than 22,700 times on Facebook, and who knows how many times other posts (such as Bleacher Report's) were shared -- bigger offers started rolling in.
First Michigan State. Then UCLA. Then Oklahoma.
And finally, in the last couple of weeks, the offer he presumably really wanted came in: Oregon. He canceled his planned official visit to UCLA for next weekend in order to take an official to Eugene. And after a second in-home visit tonight from the Oregon staff -- this time including head coach Mark Helfrich -- he didn't even wait for the trip to make a decision.
The hope for all of us WSU fans was that our coaching staff would be able to use the relationship it built early with Leiato would eventually help the Cougars get the nod over the powerhouse programs that only showed up after people couldn't stop talking about his video. But it's hard to begrudge a kid wanting to play in a program that just got done playing for a national championship -- and one that's roughly equidistant from home as Pullman.
The internet can sometimes be a cesspool, especially when it comes to recruiting, but this is a great example of the internet at its awesomest. Ten years ago -- heck, maybe even two years ago, before Hudl started allowing sites to embed its videos -- this doesn't happen. Leiato would have ended up at WSU, perhaps becoming a star, spurring stories of how the Cougars are great at finding "diamonds in the rough."
Can you imagine what might have happened had Hudl, Twitter and Facebook been around when Will Derting was destroying people up in Okanogan? Perhaps he still becomes a Coug. Or perhaps some crazy video makes the rounds and he ends up at a rival school.
Despite all that, don't fall into the trap of thinking the internet made Fotu Leiato. Leiato made himself: He earned this scholarship to a Pac-12 powerhouse with his incomparable play; he just needed a little help getting seen. And I, for one, am incredibly proud that we played a small part in a teenager getting to realize his dream.
Congrats to Leiato. Just please don't decapitate any of our players in the future.