EAGLE — With the swish of a pen, the first piece of the new College of Idaho football team fell into place Monday morning at Eagle High.
Six-foot-4 senior tight end Marcus Lenhardt became the face of Coyote football as the first player to sign a with the program, which was reinstated in May after being suspended following the 1977 season.
“It’s really, really exciting,” said new C of I football coach Mike Moroski, who took over resurrecting the program less than five weeks ago. “This is the most important thing right now is recruiting the right kind of kids.
“I think you’re always looking for, well, from the coach’s standpoint, you’re looking for what you want your program to be like. In this unique situation of starting out, you need to start well, and so you’re looking for guys that fit what you want.”
Lenhardt turned out to be the perfect fit on the field and in the classroom, earning scholarships from the Caldwell college in both athletics and academics, which will cover about two-thirds the cost of his education.
“This feels great,” Lenhardt said of finalizing his college choice, as he was also recruited by six-time NAIA National Champion Carroll College (Mont.), Montana Tech and Western Oregon.
“I mean it’s a big stress reliever, I’d been thinking about the decision for over two months, so it’s good to make a decision and know that I made the right one,” Lenhardt said.
Lenhardt passed up the NAIA powerhouse Fighting Saints and NCAA Division II Wolves of Western Oregon because of what the C of I offered, and it had nothing to do with the scholarships.
“It’s a brand new program and I think being part of this is (a) once in a lifetime opportunity, so I didn’t want to pass up on it,” said the Eagle High senior, who plans to major in business.
“That was one of the biggest deals for me,” Lenhardt added of the C of I’s academics. “Football is an extra. My main reason for going to college is getting an education, so I made sure they had a good business program, which I heard they do. And they’re very rigorous in their academics, so it’s certain to be hard and a lot of work, but I’m prepared to be a part of it.”
While Lenhardt’s school-first attitude impresses the Coyotes, so does his athletic ability.
“I think what stuck out to me is he’s very, very physical, I mean he’s a physical football player,” Moroski said. “So he’ll be able to do lots of things with his hand down and attached to the line of scrimmage, and we’ll be able to move him around, which is what you want in tight ends.”
Moroski adds that Lenhardt can block like a lineman and catch like a wide receiver, and playing in Eagle’s spread offense, had the chance to do both as he hauled in 27 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns last season.
While some might wonder why the school did not sign a quarterback or running back first, Moroski said he wasn’t focused on a position, but potential.
“I think what the best programs in the country do is, you’re not only looking for what a young man is presently, but what he can be,” Moroski said. “So you’re always looking at the top end, how good can they get? And that’s one of the difficult things about it, but I must say, it’s fun and challenging about recruiting, too.
“And I think Marcus’ top end is up there and I think he’s going to be a very, very good player.”