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Behind the scenes of Hockinson star Sawyer Racanelli’s commitment to Washington Huskies football

When Sawyer Racanelli finished up a conversation with University of Washington receivers coach Junior Adams and Rick Steele, his high school coach, on Monday at Hockinson High School, he was hit with a sense of assuredness.

After a years-long college football recruiting process, the three-star athlete who had offers from the likes of UCLA, Michigan, Washington State and others, knew right then and there he wanted to be a Husky.

“I was thinking about it, praying about it, I was like, you know what, I have the opportunity to play for a top-10 program in my backyard,” Racanelli said. “The coaches have established themselves, I know coach Pete isn’t going anywhere.”

So the two-time Washington 2A state champion told Steele he was committing to Washington. And Steele promptly set up a call with UW head coach Chris Petersen for Tuesday night.

Surrounded by his immediate family, cousins, aunt, uncle and grandparents who had convened to watch the Portland Trail Blazers game, Racanelli made the call to Petersen to commit to being a Husky, and the head coach yelled back into the phone “let’s go!”

Racanelli, the 2018 Washington 2A state player of the year, is a three-star recruit, according to 247 Sports. He was being recruited as both a wide receiver and linebacker, though Racanelli said Washington wants him to play wideout. Cal, Arizona and Kansas State sought Racanelli as a linebacker, and he was open to playing both, though he admitted he preferred playing wideout.

Racanelli first met Petersen when he was the head coach at Boise State. Racanelli was in elementary school at the time, and he drove with his dad to see a Broncos game. His dad, Josh Racanelli (now Hockinson’s offensive coordinator), was a quarterback at Portland State while Petersen was the quarterbacks coach for a year in 1993-1994.

Flash forward to the summer after Racanelli’s freshman year of high school, and he crossed paths with Petersen again at a UW football camp.

“Walked up and shook his hand, and he was like ‘hey Sawyer, how’s it going,’ ” Racanelli said. “I was like ‘oh crap, coach Pete knows my name.’”

Washington kept Racanelli on its radar as he rose to one of the state’s top prospects. After Hockinson repeated as 2A state champions in December, Racanelli and Petersen exchanged phone numbers and texted periodically this winter.

What separated UW was twofold: Racanelli felt confident it would best help him achieve his dream of playing in the NFL; and the proximity. When he narrowed his final two schools to UCLA and UW in recent weeks, he thought about his family wanting to see him play.

“It came down to that factor of my parents flying versus my parents driving,” he said.

On Friday, after he had called each coach who offered him to inform them of his forthcoming commitment to Washington, he got to school and informed the secretaries of his intention to post his commitment straight to Twitter. They thought otherwise and sprung into action, according to Racanelli, calling the attention of the entire student body over the intercom.

“They made an announcement over the school and everyone came down that I could see,” Racanelli said. “The whole room was packed. They set up a camera.”

In the camera’s view inside Steele’s classroom, which Sawyer had sat in countless times for meetings and film review, they set up a Washington hat and a UCLA hat, with both Hockinson football state championship trophies on each side and a school banner as the backdrop.

When he made his decision, the students erupted in applause. Racanelli said his phone was inundated with messages and calls at a rate he’d experienced twice before — after both state championship wins.

Racanelli made his decision in a place — Hockinson High School — that he’s long called home. Now, as the class of 2020 commit looks to the future, he considers Montlake an extension of that.

“I keep telling people it’s a home away from home,” Racanelli said.

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