It was hard not to hear about powerhouse Mission Viejo High School this year, for what they did on the field and where they signed on Signing Day. The Diablos recorded a 14-0 record and CIF Division II Southern Section championship, while also putting quarterback Mark Sanchez into the #1 overall slot in Scout.com's 2005 class rankings. Sanchez was joined by no less than three of his teammates in making Scout's Top 100 rankings in the state, and a total of six Diablos signed National Letters of Intent two weeks ago for Division I schools - five in the Pac-10 plus one to Ohio State.
The 2006 class for Mission Viejo will not be without talent, and the top dog in the program this fall will be big Konrad Reuland. He stands 6'6" and 242 pounds, but the Ohio native is just learning the game of football. He grew up playing basketball all his life before he transferred from Mater Dei High School after his freshman year.
"Everything came naturally for me, except the blocking was hard," Reuland remarks. "I've worked really hard on my blocking the last two years, and I think I've come a long way. A lot of it is technique and persistence - once you hit a guy, stay on him. Keep driving your feet."
Though just a junior, and just in his second year of playing football, Reuland led Mission Viejo in both receptions and receiving yards in 2004, with 47 catches for 744 yards and seven touchdowns. His agility, quickness, hands and footwork can be credited to his basketball background, but he has fast become a complete tight end. Reuland speaks of himself as a member of the Diablos' offensive line, and he lined up tight on 95% of his snaps this past fall. He takes great pride in Mission Viejo's 3,300 rushing yards in 2004, but he also relishes getting off the line of scrimmage against all of an opponent's best efforts. In the big game against Long Beach Poly in early October, he had a linebacker and defensive end dedicated full-time to stopping him. Reuland still managed two catches against the double-team, including a nine-yard touchdown.
"Defenses would crash on me and try to not let me release," the junior tight end explains. "If somebody big tried to block me, I'd use my quickness to beat them. If they went for speed by bringing their safeties up, I used my size and strength."
Reuland does admit he has much to still gain in his upper body strength, he would like to lower his 4.7 speed into the 4.6's, and he remains unsatisfied with his blocking abilities. But from the first season as a sophomore when he took to the gridiron, it has been obvious that he is an exceptional athlete and a true natural talent. So much so that he earned a pair of scholarship offers before his junior season got underway.
On September 1, 2004, Reuland received his first two offers, in what he believes to be a complete coincidence. Duke and Nebraska both stepped forward to offer on the day when college coaches were allowed to make phone calls for the first time to senior recruits. Phone calls cannot go out at that time to juniors, but the Blue Devils and Huskers were likely both trying to convey that he was their priority, on the day when they should be calling all their top senior recruits.
Reuland was well-scouted that spring when coaches from all over the nation flocked to Mission Viejo to evaluate the bumper 2005 crop of Diablos. One of those attendees was Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan, who caught a glimpse of the young tight end in workouts and the weight room. When September 1 rolled around, the Huskers handed over an offer. Duke had their hooks in Reuland when he came to their turf Memorial Day weekend. He was traveling with an Orange County travel basketball (AAU) squad to the famed Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions, which is held on the campuses of Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State. Reuland received a personal tour of the Duke facilities at the time and forged an early relationship with the Blue Devils.
The big tight end is hearing from many more schools, though he says 10 have made the best effort thus far: USC, Cal, Arizona, Stanford, Notre Dame, Colorado, Nebraska, Duke, Ohio State and Miami. Who is the one school surprisingly missing from that list?
"I haven't heard at all from UCLA," says the Orange County standout. "I'm kind of surprised because I'm hearing from a lot of the Pac-10. I get a bunch from USC."
The Trojans are presumably in a power position with Reuland, after landing his quarterback (Mark Sanchez) in this class and currently sitting atop the college football world.
"USC, I definitely like them. They are one of my top choices," Reuland reveals. "They're close to home and have been showing me a lot of interest."
Another school on his mind goes to where he lived before Mission Viejo. Until he was two or three years old, his family lived in Ohio, which has kept him following the Buckeyes all his life.
"Ohio State was a childhood favorite growing up for me," he shares. "I rooted for the Buckeyes for a long time, but it's more of a sentimental thing. They aren't really a favorite necessarily for me now."
"I haven't seen enough of any schools yet to name any real favorites," Reuland carefully proclaims. "I have to see the campuses, and I want to get to know the coaches and how they utilize the tight end in their offense."
While the coaches in Columbus and Los Angeles are hoping for some hometown cooking in their recruiting appeal for Reuland, but there is another place he lived that impacted him the most. No coaches, however, will be offering him official visits from there. Reuland spent his eighth grade year overseas as an exchange student in Germany, which was a life-changing experience for him.
"I have a bunch of relatives over there, and my grandparents emigrated from there to the United State. They have huge accents. My dad grew up with them speaking German at home, and he didn't want mine to be the first generation to not speak - to not know the language and the culture," Reuland details.
The youngster went to the Fatherland wide-eyed and eager to learn about the home of his ancestors. He unfortunately left the States unprepared for the language immersion he would face.
"I didn't know how to speak a single word of German. I used to know a few phrases to answer questions when I was little, but it was all gone. The first day of school there, they asked me my name and I didn't know how to respond," Reuland remembers. "It was tough at first, but it made me grow up and mature. I came back a totally different person. I had to pretty much learn the language all by myself."
The standout student-athlete has a strong educational ethic, as you might expect. He landed a 4.0 GPA his first semester this year at Mission Viejo HS, and prior to that carried a strong 3.8 average.
"Academics is a pretty important part of my college decision," Reuland maintains. "Education is important, and Stanford is as good as it comes. The coaches have probably given me a little more recognition in basketball than football so far. I saw Stanford when I was in the seventh grade; I was up around there for a basketball tournament. They have a great school, academics-wise, and great athletics."
Basketball has been a passion for Reuland as long as he can remember, and the AAU circuit has been at the center of his summers. He does not yet know how basketball will compete against football camps this summer, though he anticipates attending the Southern California Nike Camp at USC on April 17.
The offers will pour in for Konrad Reuland - you can bank on that. His is a story we will be following for many months. Stay tuned for what should be a heated recruitment with this elite tight end.