MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Yodny Cajuste will sign a national letter of intent today to play college football at West Virginia University, a pretty remarkable achievement for someone who didn't even have an offer from the Mountaineers until just 10 days ago.
Then again, he didn't have a single scholarship offer this time last year.
He's only played two years of organized football in his life. Those two years were separated by a six-year break between his first season as a fifth grader and his senior season at Florida's Miramar High.
"It's been a pretty crazy past month for me," Cajuste said, "but it's been a pretty crazy past year for me."
For a long time, Cajuste was a basketball player, if anyone asked. And they did ask because they saw a 6-foot-5, 250-plus pound center who wasn't going to be a guard or a small forward in college, but could be the next big thing at Miramar. That's no small thing at the school that sent WVU Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, Ivan McCartney, Devonte Mathis, Josh Taylor and, of course, Damon Cogdell.
Cogdell, a Mountaineers linebacker from 1996-98, was hired last month as an assistant coach at WVU and will coach Cajuste as the team's defensive line coach. He'd been at Miramar since 2002 and was the head coach the past seven seasons. Cogdell tried again and again to get Cajuste to join the football team, but Cajuste always declined and finally thought he might have found a way to avoid Cogdell's advances.
Cajuste planned on pouring himself into AAU basketball during the summer of his junior year, but he started to get the idea it might not work out for him.
"I love watching Kobe Bryant. He's my favorite player and I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to be the next Kobe, so I always said I was going to stick with basketball," he said. "Later on in my career, I started to understand what people were saying. At my height, that's like a point guard or a shooting guard.
"At the time, I was playing power forward and center. I said, 'Maybe Coach Cogdell is right.'"
The two made a deal. Cajuste agreed to join the Patriots for spring football during his junior season. Cogdell said Cajuste would get a bunch of attention.
"If you don't get one offer, you can go back to basketball," Cogdell said.
"At the end of the spring, I had 10 offers," he said. "That's when I began to love the game. I saw I had a future in it."