Defensive end Nifae Lealao (Sacramento/Capital Christian) has a chance to be one of the more highly recruited players in the West region for the Class of 2014. The ESPN Watch List standout already holds offers from Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA and Washington, with several national programs -- including Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon and USC -- expressing interest.
The attention began for the 6-foot-5, 260-pound Lealao during the spring following his sophomore football season. He was in the middle of basketball season when the mail began, and as spring moved into summer, the offers followed. Now, the two-sport standout regularly hears from coaches.
The four schools that have offered sit atop his list, but Lealao isn't shy about proclaiming one program as his clear leader.
"My favorite right now is Stanford," he said. "I always wanted to go to Stanford. It was one of my earliest offers and it's on the West Coast. It is a school I always looked up to and wanted to go to ever since I was little. It's always been a dream. With the balance of academics and athletics, I can see myself going there. I had a chance to visit the campus and participate in a camp where I received the offer. I like the environment and the atmosphere."
He was in attendance several weeks ago, when Stanford defeated USC in Palo Alto.
Lealao said he originally planned to make a commitment at the end of his junior season, but the recruiting attention from programs across the country could put that on hold. Alabama, LSU and Notre Dame are giving him the most attention of the schools out of the region, and while Lealao said he is drawn to the West Coast, he would like to give himself an opportunity to visit some schools farther away from home. He said he would also like to visit one of the Los Angeles schools for a game in either October or November.
"At the end of the season, I'll see how I feel about it," Lealao said of a commitment. "It could be after the season is over, but it probably won't be until the start of my senior year. I'm going to see how it plays out."
A standout basketball player as well, Lealao averaged 10.5 points and 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore and doesn't see his interest in basketball going away when he gets to college.
"I intend to play basketball too, and Stanford has given me the opportunity to do that," he said. "Any school that would let me play both would have a little bit of an edge, and I let everybody know that. That's one of the things I'm going to look at. So, playing both sports and being a dream school put them (Stanford) at the top. But other schools could change my mind."
Lealao said that everything looks good when it comes to academics, and he is pleased with the start to his junior season. The Cougars are off to a 4-1 start --,they won nine games combined the past two seasons -- and Lealao is pleased with the team effort.