Southern Utah football coach Ed Lamb didn’t mind paying a visit to Desert Hills last week to watch Ty Rutledge and Josh Anderson do their thing on the basketball court.
When a chance comes along to recruit players like them, it was all about doing the necessary public relations work.
Once Lamb and offensive coordinator Steve Clark entered the gym for the Thunder’s Jan. 30 game vs. Hurricane, they got two players in the space of one visit.
Rutledge and Anderson were among the highlight players who signed on with the T-Birds during National Signing Day on Wednesday. Of the 24 players SUU landed, 18 came from the state of Utah and four — Rutledge and Anderson along with Pine View’s Weslee Moeai and Wes Kanuvaka — came from Region 9.
“Ty had let us know he’d be ready to make a decision early in the week,” Lamb said. “We knew they had a home basketball game, so Coach Clark and I said we’d come down, and if you have a decision, we’d love to hear it then.
“We were hoping we weren’t going to travel down for no answer, but it was a great sign that as soon as we walked in, Ty’s parents and Josh’s parents were very cordial and invited us over to sit with them. We took that as a good sign.”
Once the game ended, Rutledge offered his commitment. It was a time for celebration among the students who were still celebrating at the gym.
“Ty was emotional, his parents were emotional, hugs all around,” Lamb said. “We started taking pictures with the high-school coaches, with Ty, his parents, Coach Clark and I, a number of poses.”
Then Anderson offered his commitment about 10 minutes later, adding to the fun.
“We had to re-take all the pictures with both Josh and Ty,” Lamb said. “Mike Needham and his parents were also there, so it was pictures with everybody and the students got excited when they saw what was going on. … A couple of students who aren’t prospects even yelled they want to commit to SUU, too.”
Rutledge was a first-team 3A all-state honoree at quarterback in his senior season for a Thunder team that reached the state semfinals before falling to Spanish Fork.
“SUU’s the right place for me to be,” Rutledge said. “That’s kind of how I felt since I started talking to them my sophomore year. I’m really excited to be able to get up there and play when I get home off my mission.”
Anderson was also a first-team 3A all-state player who caught 34 passes for 500 yards and six touchdowns in his senior season.
“It’s overwhelming and exciting to be able to play up there,” Anderson said. “They’re excited for me to come up there and play with them, and it’ll be great to play with Ty and Mike.”
Moeai is a 6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman who was part of a Pine View team that made the playoffs last season before bowing out to the Dons in the first round. Kauvaka’s father, Wilson Kauvaka, played for the T-Birds as a fullback.
In addition to the haul of players from Region 9, Lamb was more than pleased with the recruiting class overall.
“This was by far our best recruiting class in terms of the in-state response,” Lamb said. “We were undefeated against Weber State, including two or three players we didn’t think we were going to get. In the past, we’ve lost those battles.
“When they can come and watch a gymnastics meet or our basketball teams and see the support that Cedar City brings, if they don’t say yes at that point, we feel like they never will. … That’s a testament to the job our coaches do in developing the relationships.”