Jacques Badolato-Birdsell’s journey, which began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and continued to Camas, has a new destination.
The Camas High School senior announced Friday that he plans to continue his education and play college football at the University of Nevada.
“Out of all the other colleges, it just seemed the best fit for me, athletics-wise and academics-wise,” the all-state running back said. “I’m just looking at the bigger picture now, and that’s Nevada.”
Badolato-Birdsell said his conversations with the coaches at Nevada began right after the Papermakers captured the 2019 4A state championship with 35-14 win over Bothell, a game in which Badolato-Birdsell rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns.
“The running backs coach (Vai Taua) hit me up and we connected right away,” Badolato-Birdsell said. “And even though they didn’t offer me right away, we were still in contact. … He just told me about their offense and what they like to do. They like to run the ball a lot. They said that they would use me a lot because of my combination speed and strength.”
Badolato-Birdsell rushed for 1,559 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Papermakers last season. Lingering injuries limited him during the regular season, but he took off in Camas’ postseason run, gaining 730 yards and 14 touchdowns in five playoff games.
He made only one recruiting visit — Oregon’s junior day in early March — and was set to visit Utah when the coronavirus outbreak shut that down.
From there the recruiting process was limited to emails, zoom calls and phone calls. But the offers started coming in — from Air Force, Central Washington, Georgetown and Portland State.
Nevada’s offer came about 10 days ago.
“After Nevada offered, I posted it (on social media), and a few Pac-12 teams hit me up and wanted my film,” he said. “But they wouldn’t make a move on me. They wanted to wait and see my first game, is what they said.”
Badolato-Birdsell didn’t want to wait that long.
“With the coronavirus and everything happening right now, I didn’t know what else would get thrown in the mix of things because this year is a weird year,” he said. “I talked with my family. I talked with my coaches. And I’ve come to a decision that it’s best to just commit and just make sure I’m playing somewhere next year.”
Badolato-Birdsell said he was unable to visit the campus in Reno, but hopes to do so over either the Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks. He said he hopes to study business at Nevada.
Born in the Congo, Badolato-Birdsell was adopted and moved to Camas nine years ago.
“Camas has meant a lot to me,” he said. “I came from Africa straight to Camas, and I really didn’t know much about the area. Even though Africa was my home, Camas has been a second home for me. I love it here. I like the environment and the people in this town, what this town means and what this town represents.”
He’s also looking forward to getting back to limited workouts with his football teammates and representing Camas High School again. He spent much of the summer working out with teammates in the garage of quarterback Jake Blair.
“With all the COVID and stuff going, it’s the only thing that was bringing us together,” he said. “And we want to return and get back to win (state) back-to-back. That’s the focus this year.”