For many high school football players today marks a red-letter day, when national letters of intent are signed, envelopes are sealed and players are delivered to programs across the country.
Yet for every athlete who signs, there are thousands who will not. Those players will perhaps spend the next two years at a junior college or in a program at a school that does not offer athletic scholarships, hoping to attract the attention of a Division I scout.
Others wishing to play at the Division I level, but who remain unsigned, are considering a more inventive approach.
"I think I'll start my own school," quarterback Jeremy Leach said wryly. "I'm a man without a team."
Leach--like his Granada Hills High teammate, receiver Kyle Jan--is trying to adjust to the notion of what is essentially collegiate free agentry. While many players will notarize their athletic futures today with the stroke of a pen, Jan and Leach apparently have fallen through the cracks.
Some say there are a few San Andreas Fault-sized crevices in the scouting system, and that given a chance Jan and Leach might shake up some people.
"It just proves to me that there are an awful lot of college coaches who have no idea what they're doing," Granada Hills Coach Darryl Stroh said. "I know there are schools out there that can use a couple of kids like these."
Stroh used the pair often--and won the City Section 4-A Division title with a 27-14 upset win over Carson, ranked No. 2 in the nation before the game.
Leach, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 210-pounder, led the City 4-A in passing with 2,666 yards and 35 touchdowns. He completed 208 of 342 passes (61%) and threw 9 interceptions. In his two-year career at Granada Hills, Leach passed for 3,991 yards and 49 touchdowns. He threw only 12 interceptions in 540 attempts.
Leach is an alternate for the South team in the Shrine all-star game behind Todd Marinovich of Capistrano Valley, who was named USA Today's player of the year, and Bret Johnson of El Toro, Cal-Hi Sports' state player of the year.
Leach earned a few honors, too. He was named the City 4-A player of the year, the Valley League co-MVP and was named to The Times' All-Valley team.
At first, the offers were there. Leach, who had his sights set on playing in the Pacific 10 Conference, took trips to Washington State and Arizona State. While in Pullman he was offered a scholarship but told coaches he wanted to see what ASU had to offer.
"I told them I wanted to wait and see," Leach said. "Then they told me I'd waited too long."
Leach was then told Sunday that ASU had no scholarships remaining, either.
"So now it's like I have nothing, really."
What is worse, believing some kind of scholarship offer was forthcoming, Leach had not applied for entrance at any university. The best he can hope for is that a school will call today with a leftover. Otherwise, it might be time to take a walk.
"I'm confident that I can play at the Division I level," he said. "I don't want to sell myself short and go to a smaller school. If I have to, I'll try to walk on somewhere.
"I played against some of the best defensive backs and secondaries in Southern California in the 4-A Division," he said. "I think about it and it just makes me mad."
If Leach thinks he has had a bad couple of days, Jan has done him one better. The 6-5 wide receiver was informed Monday that his basketball season has ended because of a broken bone in his right hand.
Jan was named the MVP of the City championship game after intercepting two passes and catching a 25-yard scoring pass from Leach. Jan finished the season with 65 receptions for 950 yards. He also caught a school-record 15 touchdown passes. Defensively, Jan had five interceptions. He was named all-league, All-City and Times All-Valley.
Jan made the trip to Washington State with Leach but has not heard much from the school since.
"I guess as of now, I'm hoping that somebody doesn't get somebody on Wednesday."
Unlike Leach, however, Jan has made other arrangements.
"I applied for some financial aid, so that's a step in the right direction," Jan said. "I think I can walk on and make a team if I have to."
Other than adopting a wait-and-see posture, Stroh said he does not know what else to tell the pair.
"I've never really seen anything like this happen before," Stroh said. "About all they can do is wait.
"Hey, I'm just a dumb high school coach, but somebody's missing something out there."
Jan said it is not the first time he and Leach have faced similar circumstances.
"We handled being big underdogs against Carson, so we can handle this."
The Highlanders apparently will place one player in the Pac-10 ranks. Tight end Sean Brown, who caught 56 passes for 605 yards and 11 touchdowns, is expected to sign with ASU today after also taking trips to UCLA, Colorado and Washington. Brown (6-3, 210) had seven interceptions as a defensive back.
Two players from the Marmonte League will sign letters of intent today after making verbal commitments earlier this week.
Eric Anhalt, a lineman from Royal, will sign with Stanford. Anhalt (6-4, 240), a Times' All-Valley selection, will join running back J. J. Lasley of Del Rey League member Crespi at the Pac-10 school.
Chris Gann, a defensive back from Thousand Oaks, and Scott Pensis, a running back from Calabasas of the Frontier League, have verbally committed to attend Southern Utah State.