The Pendleton football team put the school on the map this fall, and the journey continued Wednesday when six players signed letters of intent to play college football.
Shawn Yeager, Everett Willard and Wille Camp all signed to play at Eastern Oregon University, while Blake Davis, Ian Bannister and Aiden Patterson all are headed to Western Oregon University.
EOU coach Tim Camp announced Wednesday that 24 players signed with the Mountaineers. The three Pendleton athletes also will be joined by Hermiston quarterback Andrew James.
“This class is very talented,” coach Camp said in a news release. “Each one of these men brings a different strength to the table as both a student and athlete. The key with this class is not going to be their talent, but how they mature and develop as people, students and players over the next two to five years.”
The Bucks (10-2) reached the state semifinals for the first time since 1977, and had four players earn first team all-state honors.
Camp is quite familiar with the Pendleton trio — his son Willie will join his program.
“It will be an amazing experience to play for him,” Willie Camp said. “He is one of my biggest critics, but he will make me a good player. I have never played for my dad, he’s always been a college coach.”
Willie Camp said the choice to play at EOU was an easy one, and he’s happy to have a couple of his Buckaroo teammates along for the ride.
“To continue playing with kids I have played with will be amazing,” he said. “We have chemistry. I joined them as a junior and they accepted me. We didn’t win a state title, but we left a footprint on the program.”
Camp was a first team all-league cornerback, and earned all-state honorable mention honors.
Willard, who had a handful of offers to choose from, said there were many things that put EOU at the top of the list.
“I like the coaches, the way they handled the recruiting process, and it’s close to home,” Willard said. “I’m beyond grateful for everything we have done this season. At times it can be overwhelming, but it’s a blessing.”
Willard was a first team all-league center and defensive lineman, and earned first team all-state honors on the offensive line, and honorable mention honors as a D-lineman.
“I’d like to play on the offensive line at Eastern,” he said. “I’d play anywhere they wanted me to, but I’d prefer guard or center.”
Yeager, who was a first-team all-league defensive back for the Bucks, said EOU was his first choice among his offers.
“It’s close to home so my mom can come watch me play,” he said. “I like their program, and they have a nice weight room. Coach Camp really cares about his players, and he’s going to push us. I’m looking forward to it.”
While Yeager played on both sides of the ball at Pendleton, he’s not sure what the Mounties have in store for him.
“I will play where they tell me,” Yeager said.
While the Camps have ties at EOU, Pendleton coach Erik Davis has strong ties to Western Oregon, where his son Blake has chosen to play.
“My dad was an assistant coach there,” Blake Davis said of WOU. “It was 100 percent my first choice. Growing up there, it feels like home. I have wanted to play at Western since I was 8 years old. Finally signing is a big thing for me.”
Davis was a first team all-league wide receiver, and earned second team all-state honors at the same position.
Joining Davis at WOU will be Patterson, who ran for more than 1,000 yards this season. He earned first team all-league honors, and was a first team all-state selection at running back.
“We have been looking forward to this since we played youth football 10 years ago,” Patterson said.
“Coach has been working his butt off to get us here.”
And to share the college experience with friends makes it better.
“Blake, Ian and I have been friends since we were tiny,” Patterson said. “It’s nice to have a couple of guys I have known forever to share this with.”
Bannister, a second team all-state defensive back, said WOU was a good fit for him.
“The coaching staff is really good,” he said. “It felt like the right fit. I knew we could play at the next level, I just didn’t know how many would get the opportunity to go. Six is an amazing number. It’s a huge accomplishment.”