This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Cottonwood Heights • Every hour the circus multiplies in numbers, each one bringing an extra pinch of chaos, as the college football community anxiously anticipates Brighton receiver Simi Fehoko's announcement. The wretchedness of recruiting is endlessly exhausting, and widely regarded as one of the nation's top prospects for the Class of 2016, Simi wants nothing more than to escape the mayhem.
Today is that day. Simi Fehoko is committing to Stanford.
Arriving at that juncture wasn't easy. Stardom at age 17 transformed his life into a fishbowl; with everyone he meets interrogating him for answers an inside access, looking for anything to influence his decision. Search "Simi Fehoko" on Twitter, and you'll discover madness rivaling political campaigns.
"I would love to have a target like @Simi_Fehoko come join us at the Y!"
"Ute Nation!! #Hometown Kid"
"Early playing time. Built for life #UDUB"
"Pick Michigan! #GoBlue"
"Go Card, my friend! It's the place to be on many, many fronts."
And those, technically NCAA recruiting violations, are only what are visible to the public eye. Simi receives constant direct messages daily, including from programs excluded from his preferred list. Alabama mailed 107 letters to his home. Strangers in public approach him, recruiters contact his girlfriend scouring for scoops, and fans research his interest in computer technology to initiate conversation. One fanatic interrupted Sunday sacrament to illegally offer Simi employment as an unwanted persuasion tactic. It never stops. But rather than ignore them, despite the attention embarrassing the shy-by-nature teen, Simi listens and responds, even if it adds another constraint to his already jammed schedule.
"Inside there's this guilt because there's no way he can contact all those people [who message him]," says his mother, Tiffany. "He's constantly conflicted."
The process further confirmed Simi's perpetual need to please. He shared his decision with his family long ago.
"Overall, Stanford is a hard-to-miss package," he explains. "It has everything that you could want in a college."
But until now Simi has been reluctant to disclose anything publicly. Envisioning the moment of declaring should be filled with overwhelming pride and happiness.
For Simi the dream was repressed by the anxiety of disappointment, a complex that once dictated his decision-making.
"Disappointing people is a huge thing for him," says his girlfriend, Bailee Larson. "He's trying to please everybody. He's always going to have haters. He needs to think about what works best for him."
From his schoolbag, Simi pulls his notebook sardined with classwork on an overcast May afternoon, plopping it on the kitchen table with a thud. Flipping to the history section, he grabs an extra credit crossword puzzle, and, scribbling with a mechanical pencil, pieces together definitions to boost his A- to an A on the final week of his junior year.
"It's pointless work," he admits.
He's aware of the stereotype associated with athletes and education, which is an occasional influence into maintaining his cumulative 3.7 grade-point average in advanced placement courses, but mainly Simi is fueled from another, more powerful motivator.
"I don't want to disappoint my parents," Simi explains. "... That's my biggest fear, is disappointing my family, people in general. It scares me having to be viewed as someone who didn't do this or didn't do what you were supposed to do."
He's interrupted three times before finding three words. Tiffany calls to remind him of required afternoon chores, Bailee texts to confirm plans, and Chris Petersen, the head coach at Washington, sends a direct message on Twitter. Simi put the Huskies in his top five, which included BYU, Michigan, Stanford, and Utah.
"[Petersen] said, 'It's a beautiful day in Seattle, Simi. I want this to be your home.' And he sent a picture of the lake. It looks nice..." Simi says, tapering off with a nervous smile. He knows Husky Stadium will never be his home.
"I don't want to disappoint them by not going there," he explains. "Meeting all these coaches, making connections with them, and then having to cut it off is going to be hard."
Simi exploded onto the national scene in 2014. At 6-foot-4, with the ability to outleap defenders paired with his soft, reliable hands and the speed of a spooked deer, he led Brighton with 65 receptions for 1,644 yards and 24 touchdowns as a junior.
Recruiters marveled at his intangibles illustrated by his Nike Football Rating of 125.07 the seventh-highest score in the nation. Spectators drooled when Simi, who also starts on the hardwood for Brighton, tweeted his dunk reel highlighting his freakish hops. Monsoons of letters flooded his Sandy home long before the video, forcing his mother to file them into boxes for keepsake.
"We've kept everything he's got up to date," Tiffany says.
"The [boxes] keep getting bigger and bigger," his father, Simon, chimes in. "... I didn't think it would be this much. It's pretty crazy."
Bedlam infiltrated his school hallways, too. Notre Dame, with specific admission standards, attempted to switch his academic schedule without his permission.
"I had to tell them I'm not interested," Simi says.
The act might appear elementary, but defending his own interests was the first step in Simi's maturation. It showed he could overcome his apprehension to stand up against authority.
'Just for me'
For more than a decade Simi alternated slaving hills and working in the gym throughout the week, all in pursuit of obtaining the dream of playing college football. That time has come.
"I did it," he says proudly.
The recruiting process provided something unexpected: The lesson he needed most. Simi realized if he never learned to accept disappointment as part of life that pleasing everyone is an impossible undertaking he'd forfeit his own happiness worrying about the perceptions of strangers.
Simi earned the satisfaction of enjoying his labor from reaching the resolution in his mind. The decision isn't meant to appease his family. He isn't concerned with public backlash or fulfilling "hometown hero" prophecies. He isn't making the mistake of committing to any coach or anyone. The decision, for the first time, is for Simi alone.
"This is going to be the one thing I can do that will be just for me. … I didn't get the bigger perspective until I had to grow up and think about what really mattered to me, which is education," Simi confesses. "… I've been truly blessed to be recruited by so many amazing schools, but at this point in my recruitment, I'd like to end it and verbally commit to Stanford University. Go Card!"
• Brighton wide receiver
• Class of 2016
• Four-star recruit
• 2014 stats: 65 receptions for 1,644 yards and 24 touchdowns