Saturday, April 6, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Rome Odunze has never lacked confidence in his football abilities. Even when the Bishop Gorman High rising senior wide receiver missed most of 2017 with an injured collarbone, there was little personal doubt he would eventually become a star.
He sat and waited his turn. He rehabbed the injury. Never did he question whether his visions of being an elite prospect would come to fruition.
Then, one day last May, he got his first scholarship offer. BYU was the initial program to extend a scholarship, which was also significant because he briefly lived in Utah and his grandparents attended the university.
“My grandma loves BYU,” he said. “It was special because my family was there when I got the offer.”
That was just the beginning of his recruitment.
At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Odunze has a rare combination of size and speed, being timed at 4.55 seconds in the 40-yard dash. His ability became obvious last fall in his breakthrough season of 60 catches for 1,347 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He’s now pushing 20 offers, with most coming this spring from a who’s who of programs — Penn State, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, West Virginia and others.
“The offers have pushed me to work harder,” Odunze said. “I see the work ethic that I put in and where it has gotten me. What if I work harder? Where will I be at the (end of my senior season).”
Gorman, the 10-time defending state champion, has had plenty of celebrated recruits during its rise to dominance. Odunze, you can argue because of his size and speed, is the next-great Gael prospect.
Recruiting database site 247 Sports considers him a four-star recruit on its evaluating scale of five stars. The site considers him Nevada’s second-best recruit for 2020 behind Desert Pines tight end Darnell Washington.
“You could see how much better he got each week (in the fall),” Gorman coach Kenny Sanchez said. “His freshman and sophomore year, he was good, but he didn’t stand out. His junior year, with his size and speed, you sensed he would be really good. You can see him coming into his own.”
It doesn’t hurt that Gorman has two Division I quarterbacks in Micah Bowens (Penn State) and Donovan Smith (Texas Tech) who, Odunze said, always “put the ball on the spot.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Odunze is as elusive and quick as any Gorman receiver in recent memory.
You could say his sophomore season of three games was a waste. But Odunze said sitting and watching had its benefits. By observing teammates push themselves to achieve, he realized the work ethic needed to elevate his game, he said.
“I knew there would be a plan for me if I keep my work ethic,” he said. “I kept my confidence that I would come back and be better. I want to continue on the legacy those guys left at this place.”