The Best Football Prospect Nobody Has Ever Heard Of

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The Best Football Prospect Nobody Has Ever Heard Of
via Carl Bruere

Easton Bruere should be having the time of his life right now.

He just finished his senior season as quarterback at Rio Rancho (New Mexico) High School by leading it to a 13-0 record and a 6A state title. 

According to MaxPreps, Easton threw for 4,567 yards and 49 touchdowns with only six interceptions this season. In the process, he became the state's all-time leader in passing yards.

Easton should be getting ready to enjoy his final semester of high school before heading off to college to resume his playing career. 

But there's one small problem.

He has zero scholarship offers less than a week before national signing day.

How could he find himself in this situation?

The primary reasons for his present circumstances are largely beyond his control. 

Given that he checks in at 6'3", 200 pounds—measurements that place him bigger or equal to 24 of the nation's top 50 pro-style passers in the 2015 class—his measurables aren't an issue like they were for Desmon White last year.

According to his father, Carl, Easton attended numerous camps—including those held at schools in the Big Ten, Big 12, Mountain West and the Pac-12—prior to his senior season.

"They've all really loved him," Carl told Bleacher Report. "They showed him a lot of love when he visited. They thought he had great size and a good arm and things of that nature. They all said he's definitely a Division I quarterback." 

Carl said that at first, Easton would get excited when mail would arrive from colleges. That joy faded over time, when he realized there was nothing of substance enclosed. 

"He's got tons of letters," Carl said. "It's funny, because he stopped opening them because he knew it was filler mail. He got letters from 20 or 30 colleges, and once in a while, there would be a handwritten letter from a coach. But it's really strange, because they came from places all over the country. But he knew what they were. He was excited at first. But then, it's like, 'OK, I know what this is.'"

Credit: Carl Bruere

There aren't any off-field concerns for schools to ponder, either.

Easton is carrying a 4.0 GPA during his senior year and has a cumulative average of 3.75. He and Carl—who doubles as the offensive coordinator at Rio Rancho—have started a quarterback camp designed to mentor younger kids in his hometown. 

It certainly can't be because of his performance.

En route to winning the state title, Easton outdueled 4-star quarterback, fellow New Mexico native and Michigan commitment Zach Gentry by throwing for 554 yards and three touchdowns in a 64-43 win over El Dorado in the state semifinals, according to James Yodice of the Albuquerque Journal

He plays in his state's biggest classification, and his team has beaten teams from Arizona and West Texas during his high school career. 

The answer to his conundrum has several layers, starting with his home state.

New Mexico's state nickname is The Land of Enchantment. 

However, for college recruiters, the entire state might as well be Area 51.

Since 2005, the state has produced just four players who have earned a 4-star rating and another 11 who were ranked as 3-stars by 247Sports. 

In the same time frame, only six quarterbacks from New Mexico earned a star rating.

Only two prospects from New Mexico have been rated a 3-star or better in the 2015 cycle—with Gentry being one of them. 

With the perceived lack of talent in the state, players such as Easton are grossly underexposed when compared with prospects from other states.

"I think being in New Mexico has hurt him, because there are so many players elsewhere and not enough here," Carl said. "For instance, Texas or Ohio State or any school can go to one little area in Texas where there are 20 or 30 prospects in the same place. Whereas in New Mexico, you're only really looking at one or two players, so they don't really come out here a lot." 

Brandon Darlington, who just finished up his first year as the offensive line coach at Rio Rancho, grew up in Pennsylvania and played college football at Syracuse from 2002-06. 

"When (my wife and I) first came out here, to find out how big football really is out here, and how popular it is, it was kind of a culture shock, actually," Darlington said.

He notes that he was also shocked at the quality of the competition Rio Rancho faced.

"It's not like we're playing against crappy opponents," Darlington said. "We're playing against West Texas teams. We're playing schools like Mayfield and Las Cruces and so on. Teams that have been putting up big-time numbers and putting people in Division I schools for years."

During the spring evaluation period, Carl said that coaches from Tulsa and Iowa State were the only programs who stopped by Rio Rancho, a town of nearly 100,000 people just north of Albuquerque. 

"In order for us to get seen, we have to go out and go to these camps," Easton said. "No colleges usually come to New Mexico. It's kind of funny, because we've beaten teams like Notre Dame Prep and Salpointe from Arizona that have guys going Division I all the time." 

If a player from New Mexico gets noticed, it's usually because he's the no-brainer type coaches simply can't refuse.

For example, Gentry—who is friends with Easton—is 6'7", 240 pounds with a 4.6-second time in the 40-yard dash.

His measurables alone would be enough to generate college interest. The fact that he's been productive helped him avoid the fate of other talented players from New Mexico who weren't as physically gifted.

Kyle Henderson, who has covered high school football in New Mexico for the last decade and runs NMPreps.com (part of the Rivals network) shares a similar sentiment. 

"Zach Gentry was hard to put on the map, honestly," Henderson said. "If he wasn't 6'7", 240, I don't know if he'd have the offers that he has now."

Henderson witnessed the duel between El Dorado and Rio Rancho live and said it didn't take long to know he was watching something special between the two stud passers.

"It was back-and-forth with two heavyweights going at it," Henderson said. "I wouldn't say that Easton completely outshined Zach, but it was clear that these two were something that we will probably never see again in New Mexico. It was that good of a matchup."

Living in an area that has historically been neglected by colleges is a burden that Easton admits he's pondered.

"From day one, I told my dad, 'I wish we didn't live in New Mexico because of this recruiting thing,'" Easton said as he replayed those conversations in his mind. "'No one comes to New Mexico. No one looks at New Mexico kids.' Then you look at the picture like, what else do these college coaches want me to do?" 

Credit: Carl Bruere

Upon viewing Easton in his first few practices at his new home, Darlington's first thought was to ask to see which school he was committed to.

Utterly befuddled at the news that he had yet to receive an offer, he took matters into his own hands.

"From the day I took the job and started coaching, I've just been posting his highlights and statistics on people's Facebook," Darlington said. "Whether they are GAs at colleges or they coach at other colleges. I'd be like, 'Hey, take a look at this kid,' or 'What do you think?'"

Darlington received positive feedback on Easton from several of his coaching friends scattered throughout the country.

"One coach at a Pac-12 school said that he liked Easton, but he already had commitments at quarterback for the next two years."

According to Darlington, that particular coach noted that the unusually deep 2015 quarterback class in California allowed most schools to focus their efforts in territories they were already familiar with.

Carl and Easton also took matters into their own hands in the quest to net a scholarship offer.

They sent out film to every FBS school and several FCS and Division II programs. They even researched schools and their recruiting classes to see which schools still had openings and needs at quarterback. 

"We kept up with his stats weekly and sent that out with his Hudl film on a weekly basis," Carl said. "We researched it and came up with a group of about 30 colleges that publicly have not gotten their 2015 quarterback yet, and we sent stuff out to them every week, his film and stats."

Recruiting is never final until a player enrolls or signs a national letter of intent, so Carl also mass-emailed every FBS school in the country in case an opening suddenly materialized. 

The rest of the staff at Rio Rancho also tried to use its network to get the word out on its star quarterback.

"Some of our coaches have some connections, and they've been talking to other coaches for me and things like that," Easton said. "I've been in a couple of magazines, Sports Illustrated being one of them. We've done a lot of things." 

While it's not a complete shock that colleges outside the state aren't beating down the doors of the Bruere residence, the fact that in-state programs New Mexico and New Mexico State have shunned the state's most prolific prep passer is peculiar.

For the record, the Lobos received a commitment from 3-star JUCO passer Austin Apodaca in December. The Aggies have yet to secure a verbal pledge from a quarterback in the 2015 cycle, perhaps due to the fact they signed six quarterbacks in the 2014 cycle.

"It baffles me that the home schools don't even offer him, and they're 20 minutes down the road," Darlington said.

As fate would have it, both schools who came to view Easton live in the spring were heavily interested in him.

In fact, the coach from Tulsa hinted to staff members at Rio Rancho that an offer would be coming—one that Carl said Easton was prepared to accept.

Their long journey would finally have a happy ending.

Instead, a bitter dose of reality intervened.

"It was a Monday when he (Tulsa coach) was here. I guess they saw someone else later that week that they liked better and reneged on that, which was kind of disappointing because we let the cat out and said that Easton was going to commit because he loved Tulsa. That was kind of heartbreaking."

He was on the Cyclones board as well, but they secured a commitment from their top target, which ended their pursuit of him.

The same could be said for Michigan State, where Easton enjoyed working with Spartans quarterback coach Brad Salem during a summer camp session.

"He's a great guy," Carl said. "He already had his offer for 2015, but we had a great experience going there. He was high on Easton, and he still keeps in touch with him."

Despite the disappointments piling up heading into the season, Easton hasn't let the uncertainty surrounding his future affect him whether on or off the field.

Instead, he brushed it aside and delivered a nearly flawless senior campaign on the field.

He was a solid starter in each of his sophomore and junior seasons but elevated his game to another level as a senior.

Entering this season, he had thrown 59 touchdown passes in the previous two seasons while completing nearly 67 percent of his passes. This year, he nearly doubled his total in scoring strikes and raised his completion rate to an astounding 75 percent. 

Henderson notes that Rio Rancho had never won a state title prior to this season despite being on the cusp of that elusive championship for many years. Easton focused his attention on accomplishing that goal and had to topple Gentry and Mayfield's Kavika Johnson—a quarterback with offers from BYU, UTEP, New Mexico and New Mexico State—to do it. 

"Since he didn't get recruited and since he doesn't have any offers, it was almost like he had a chip on his shoulder, and he went out there every game like he had something to prove," Henderson said. "He carried that with him, and I think it elevated his game. They went through a gauntlet in the playoffs and beat a very good team in the state title game."

However, Easton admits it's been hard to keep a positive attitude at times given his recruitment struggles.

"It gets to me at times," Easton said. "That's just laying in bed at night sometimes and thinking about it. I was able to play for a unique group this year. I spent a ton of time with them, and that kept my mind off recruiting, because we were always just having a ball playing football."

His attitude in dealing with the snub from colleges reminds Carl of how his son puts away his mistakes on the field—one of the attributes he said helps Easton stand out in a loaded 2015 class of quarterbacks.

"It's funny, because he's amazing in how he's handling all of this," Carl said. "All he says is, 'Dad, I want to go where someone wants me.' That's all he cares about. 'I don't care where it is, as long as they want me and I can help them win.' He just wants to go to a place that wants him there. I don't know how he does it. Because it's killing his father." 

Only a handful of prep football players are fortunate enough to earn scholarship offers to continue their careers in college. There's nothing in Easton Bruere's resume that suggests he shouldn't be one of them.

In fact, his body of work suggests he's the nation's most accomplished player in the 2015 class without a scholarship offer.

"In New Mexico, we don't get a lot of notoriety for our football prospects," Henderson said. "We get it. But for someone to put a 13-0 season together at the highest level, with his numbers, that's something noteworthy. There has to be some place out there, Division I-wise, that you'd think this guy can fit into. There's few guys nationally, whether you're from New Mexico or California or Texas, that can say they did what Easton did. He's incredibly deserving of landing a scholarship offer."

 

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

 

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