Some of the Bay Valley Athletic League's best football players made their college choices official Feb. 5 as high schools around East Contra Costa County held signing ceremonies to recognize its university-bound athletes.
Joe Mixon and Patrick Choudja of the Freedom High football team signed with Oklahoma and Nevada, respectively, and Deer Valley twin brothers Nsimba and Nzuzi Webster both signed with Eastern Washington. Their Wolverines teammate, Robert Taylor, signed with UC Davis.
Mixon, Taylor and Nzuzi Webster both had given oral commitments before Feb. 5, but Choudja and Nsimba Webster took some extra time to decide where to play and attend school.
Nsimba said he turned down San Jose State because the Spartans wanted him to gray shirt and didn't make an offer to Nzuzi. In a late twist, the twins took a trip to UCLA, which had also been making a push for Mixon, the twins' friend.
"We just went there to see what they had to offer," Nzuzi said of the UCLA trip. "They were saying they were going to give us a ride, but I had to stick with what I felt was right."
Nsimba, who was recruited as a wide receiver, felt comfortable during his trip to Eastern Washington, which announced the signing of 26 high school players on Feb. 5.
"The players, the coaches, they made me feel right at home, like a lot of love," Nsimba said. "It feels like a family out there, a big family. It was the right fit for me for the next four to five years of my life."
Even still, Nsimba's final call was a cliffhanger, even in the twins' inner circle.
"He wasn't telling me where he was going: 'Are you going or not? You better tell me," Nzuzi said. "But it's good to know that he's coming with me."
For Mixon, one of the most sought-after prospects in East Bay history, the recruiting process came to an end without any twists or turns, as he stuck to the commitment he made during the Army All-American game last month.
Freedom's five-star running back from held over 50 scholarship offers and received so much attention from college coaches that he can't even remember how many times he changed his phone number over the last year.
But when signing day rolled around, he didn't hesitate to join Bob Stoops' Oklahoma team, which is coming off a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama and produced Mixon's idol, Adrian Peterson.
Mixon faxed in his letter early in the morning, putting to rest any speculation that he might pull off a signing day surprise.
"This whole month since I committed, it's been hectic," Mixon said. "There's been a whole lot of rumors and everything about me going to UCLA or me flipping to a school. But you know what, I stuck to where I was going and now I'm a Sooner."
Mixon, who is considered the No. 1 all-purpose back in the nation at 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, finished with 4,281 career rushing yards at Freedom. He was a finalist for the Army All-American national player of the year award and was named MVP of the prestigious all-star game.
Stoops mentioned Mixon's physical running style during his signing day press conference.
"Tough, very elusive and really smooth out in space catching the football," the head coach said.
Mixon shared the stage in a signing ceremony after school with Choudja.
The defensive end didn't announce his college decision until that moment, and got emotional before stating that he had chosen Nevada over Fresno State and Boise State.
"They showed me great love," Choudja said of Nevada. "They came to my house about four times, always kept in touch with me. It just seemed like it would be a good fit for me."
Choudja, who finished with 14 sacks in his senior season, arrived a couple minutes late for the signing day ceremony. He was busy getting a Wolf Pack design shaved onto the back of his head in honor of his college choice.
Staff writers Matt Schwab and Stephanie Hammon contributed to this story.