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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Signing Day: Local football players don’t let injuries deny D-1 dreams

Hockinson's Racanelli, Union's Jordan, Skyview's McGee, Camas trio ink with colleges

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: December 18, 2019, 5:28pm
7 Photos
Hockinson's Sawyer Racanelli holds up a "W" while surrounded by his family after signing his National Letter of Intent to the University of Washington on Wednesday at Hockinson's auditorium.
Hockinson's Sawyer Racanelli holds up a "W" while surrounded by his family after signing his National Letter of Intent to the University of Washington on Wednesday at Hockinson's auditorium. Photo Gallery

Hockinson’s Sawyer Racanelli signed his National Letter of Intent to play for the University of Washington in front of a crowd of 50 friends, family and classmates in the school’s auditorium Wednesday.

Union’s CJ Jordan signed his paperwork to the University of Idaho in front of a smaller crowd of about a dozen in the Titans’ library for the NCAA’s early signing period.

Skyview’s Jalynnee McGee (Portland State) opted for a quiet signing with family, as did Camas’ Caadyn Stephen (USC), Rush Reimer (Montana State) and Bryce Leighton (Montana State). 

Regardless of the size, the celebrations served the same purpose: marking the achievement of a football dream and signing to play NCAA Division I football.

For Racanelli, Jordan and Stephen, it was a relief. All three saw their senior seasons end prematurely because of injury.

Racanelli tore his ACL in the summer, and didn’t play a snap his entire senior campaign.

“I understand what coaches go through now,” Racanelli said. “It showed football is not a self-centered sport. You have to be able to cheer on your teammates. It taught me a lot of patience.”

Racanelli was treated by UW medical staff and trainers through his rehab process. They were committed to the three-star, 6-foot-3 receiver, who is expected to play slot in college. Even after a coaching switch for the Huskies — coach Chris Petersen stepped down after six years and defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake took over — Racanelli was still guaranteed a spot.

“Coach Lake told me ‘I’m going to need you Week 1 against Michigan,’” Racanelli said. “We’ll see how that goes with rehab and how I’m ready to go up there. It just depends on how I progress up that depth chart.”

Jordan, a Clackamas transfer who took the reins for the Titans this season, also had to watch his team fall in a state playoff game while he was on the sidelines in crutches. Jordan tore his meniscus in a Week 8 win over Battle Ground. He threw for 1,087 yards, ran for 319 and accounted for 12 touchdowns.

“It definitely was tough,” said Jordan, who shared his experience with Chiawana’s Kobe Singleton, an Oregon commit, who saw his season end because of a knee injury. “It was good to hear about that, and him pushing through and leaning on God and everything we believe in.”

Jordan committed to Idaho shortly after doctors confirmed his diagnosis. He anticipates to compete for the starting job for the Vandals. Jordan is a 6-foot-3, three-star, dual-threat quarterback.

Stephen, a 6-foot-6, 3-star, offensive tackle, inked with the Trojans on Wednesday in a private signing with his family. Stephen missed the Papermakers’ final 11 games with a back injury.

“I’ve seen Caadyn at games and talked to him about his rehab. He just said he had to take a break and let it rest until college,” Racanelli said of the fellow Pac-12 commit. “When you have the capability or the privilege of playing at the next level, that’s your goal.”

Stephen, of course, had the luxury of seeing his team win a 4A state title and not have to watch a defeat like the other local signees Wednesday. Stephen’s teammates, Reimer, a 6-foot-6 offensive tackle, and Leighton, an all-American punter, signed with Montana State.

“Caadyn got a little lucky with his team winning the state championship,” Racanelli laughed.

McGee knows the feeling of missing out on postseason football. He broke his foot before Skyview’s postseason run last year, before rushing for 1,282 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior season.

“There were times I felt like giving in because I didn’t think I was going to come back as good as I was,” McGee said of his injury. “It was a lot of pressure mentally, more than physically.”

The 5-foot-11 running back committed to Portland State just days before the early signing period.

“I started doubting myself a little bit,” McGee said of the delayed recruitment process. “It was pretty overwhelming once I got the offer. A lot of it didn’t seem real. It’s crazy to think I made it to that point.”

The early signing period for Division I football continues through Friday. The next chance for players to sign with teams is in February.

Columbian sports reporter