After being a part of a Bellingham football program that has won three games over the past two years combined, senior lineman Thomas Vazorka believes he's made a college choice that will help him taste victory a little more often.
Vazorka this week announced that he has committed to play offensive tackle for Idaho State. The first day he can sign a National Letter of Intent is Feb. 6.
The Bengals are a Division I Football Championship Subdivision program from Pocatello that plays in the Big Sky Conference and has produced a number of NFL players, including former Steelers running back Merrill Hodge and current Vikings defensive lineman Jared Allen.
"I'm ecstatic that I get a chance to play Division I football," Vazorka said in a phone interview. "I'm really excited for this opportunity."
Adding to Vazorka's excitement is the chance to play for Idaho State coach Mike Kramer, who just wrapped up his second season with the Bengals.
Before coming to Idaho State, Kramer led the Eastern Washington and Montana State programs in the Big Sky, and is one of only five coaches in the conference's history to be named Big Sky Coach of the Year three times, according to his biography at isubengals.com. He also spent the 2010 season as the assistant football operations coordinator at Washington State.
During his tenure at Eastern Washington and Montana State, Kramer directed four Big Sky championship teams and guided the Eagles to the 1997 FCS national semifinals and the Bobcats to a win in the FCS playoffs in 2006.
"It's pretty exciting to have a chance to play for a coach like that," Vazorka said. "I like the fact that he's taken teams to the FCS (playoffs), and he's going to do it again."
Though the Bengals went 1-10 in 2012 and 2-9 in 2011 in Kramer's first two seasons and haven't made the playoffs since 1983, though they did win the 1981 Division I-AA national championship, Vazorka said he is confident ISU is building for the future.
"We're on the tail end (of the previous regime), and now the players that coach Kramer is bringing in are going to get to start to play, and I think it's really going to turn around," Vazorka said.
The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Vazorka, who was a two-way starter for the Red Raiders the past two years, hopes to be a big part of that turnaround.
Though he said he expects to red shirt next year, he should soon be a part of an offensive line that featured three freshmen starters this fall.
"The biggest thing for me now is to continue working in the weight room to get faster and work on my footwork," Vazorka said.
Vazorka said he chose Idaho State over a number of other Division II and Division III offers.
Though he hasn't yet made a visit to the campus, he believes he's going to like the small-town feel of Pocatello.
"I really enjoy that they have nature right there," Vazorka said. "Yellowstone (National Park) is close. I've grown up in a small town, and I wanted that feel when I went to college."
Vazorka also wanted to find a school that offered both majors he's interested in pursuing - Physiotherapy and Civil or Technical Engineering - in what figures to be an ambitious class schedule.
"I'll have practice in the morning and then afternoon study table," Vazorka said. "The one thing I like is they made it clear is that they don't want you to miss any key lectures or internships or anything like that. It will be busy, but I'll just do what I have to do."
And what Vazorka would really like to do is help the Bengals win a few football games and possibly make it to the FCS playoffs.
"They're not a winning program, yet, but I believe they are turning that all around," Vazorka said. "Coach Kramer has been a successful coach, and I know that he can do it again."
Here is a look at the Whatcom County high school seniors who either have signed or are planning to sign National Letters of Intent to be student athletes in college:
|Student athlete||High school||Sport||College|
|Rachel Albert*||Sehome||Basketball||Western Washington|
|Brooke Branigan*||Bellingham||Golf||Western Washington|
|Alex Check||Bellingham||Baseball||Washington State|
|Matt Meyer||Lynden||Football||Washington State|
|Audrey Orem*||Bellingham||Golf||Western Washington|
|Thomas Vazorka||Bellingham||Football||Idaho State|
|* Already signed National Letter of Intent|
NOTE: To report a Whatcom County high school student athlete that is planning to continue their playing career in college, please contact David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.