THE IDAHO COACHING STAFF MADE RELOADING THE TRENCHES a priority this recruiting season, signing seven O-linemen and six D-linemen in the 2010 class. Vandal fans looking for an immediate impact will want to keep an eye on 6-foot-4, 270-pound Woodinville defensive end MAXX FORDE, ranked the No.90 DE in the nation by Scout. Inside, GoVandals.net talks to Forde about his silver and gold decision.

PLAYER PROFILE: Maxx Forde, 6-4, 270, Defensive End
OFFICIAL OFFERS: Washington State, Idaho, Wyoming, Air Force and Army

This recruiting season, fans of the University of Idaho were treated to a signing day surprise that should resonate on the Idaho campus for years to come. Woodinville (Wash.) High School product Maxx Forde (6-4, 270) stunned inland northwest football fans with his eleventh hour decision to sign with Robb Akey and the Idaho Vandals over numerous other scholarship offers. Ranked the No.90 defensive end prospect in the country by Scout.com and a First Team Class 4A AP All State selection (and a First Team KingCo 4A Crown Division pick on both sides of the ball), Forde's list of suitors included Idaho, Washington State, Wyoming, Army, and Air Force.

Long a verbal commitment to WSU (his father, Brian, was a standout linebacker for the Cougs in 1985-87, and is the single-game WSU record holder for most tackles in a game at 28, and went on to play for the New Orleans Saints in the NFL), Forde continued to keep his options open throughout the recruiting process. As Vandal fans who have followed recruiting for any length of time already know, a verbal commitment is NOT a binding commitment. Numerous times over the years Idaho has been on both the receiving and losing ends of changed verbal commitments. Two years ago Idaho won a heated battle with San Diego State for defensive end prospect Charles Smith. Last year cornerback Kevin Williams committed to Idaho two days before signing day, then actually signed with South Florida instead.

It happens, otherwise the term "verbal commitment" would be changed to something more binding.

Two weeks ago, the Idaho coaching staff won a major recruiting battle that went down to the wire and received a signed Letter of Intent from Maxx Forde on signing day.

"It just felt like a better fit for me," Forde told GoVandals.net last week. "All the coaches and everybody on the staff – I loved them. Not that I didn't like the staff at Washington State, but [Idaho's] personalities fit mine better as a player; and off the field as well. [The schools] are only 8 miles apart and a lot of things are comparable between the two areas, so I didn't need to factor that in too much. Also, the schools, I felt, were pretty comparable. The players in the program, they are good guys, as are the guys in the Washington State program.

"But the relationship I felt with the coaches probably is what tipped the scale," Forde said in summary. "That was mostly the deciding factor, and I just felt it was a better fit because of that."

Were any other programs besides Idaho and WSU in the mix at the very end? "Not really," Forde said. "For a long time I was thinking about the service academies, but at the end I decided that's not for me. One of the major aspects of what I wanted in a school was the academic side of it, and obviously those two places you can't really beat. But the commitment at the end of that was something I just couldn't really wrap my head around before signing day. It just didn't feel like it was for me."

And how did the coaching staff react with the news? "I called coach [Eti] Ena, it was Tuesday before signing day," Forde said in recounting the story. "I told him that I was ready to come to the University of Idaho to become a Vandal. He was pretty excited, but he didn't quite yell or anything yet. I think he wanted me to tell coach Akey first.

"They were together at the time, so he passed the phone over to Coach Akey and I told him. The entire staff started hooting and hollering and yelling in the background."

It's a reaction that has become a hallmark with this coaching staff when a recruit commits to Idaho - a high-energy reaction from the coaching staff when a verbal pledge is made. But with Forde and the potential versatility he brings to the Vandal front line - not to mention the eleventh-hour decision - the explosion of emotion may have had a little extra charge to it.

A quality education obviously played a major role in Forde's decision, and he has high expectations for himself beyond the football field. "I'm thinking about something in the business field, but I'm not exactly sure what yet," Forde told GoVandals.net regarding his undergraduate degree plans.

But it doesn't end there.

"Something I've always wanted to do growing up – if I didn't make the NFL, which is every football player's dream…or at least it should be – if I didn't make it I always wanted to be an agent for the players. I'm going to do a degree in business, and maybe couple it with a law degree down the road to help me out with that dream."

Couple a quality education with a program on an upward trajectory, and the University of Idaho was able to stay in the hunt for Forde's commitment. Both aspects went hand-in-hand in this decision.

"I would like to say that it didn't, but if I didn't say that I would probably be lying," Forde said regarding the influence Idaho's turnaround 2009 season had in his college selection. "It's not the only reason why I would choose to go anywhere – I really want to win, and I felt like a lot of places you can do that. But that really opens your eyes and makes you listen to a team that much more.

"It probably put the foot in the door for the coaches a little bit more."

The door to Woodinville High School is a door the Vandals have passed through in the past. Senior defensive end Aaron Lavarias (6-3, 248), a Second Team All-WAC selection last season and two year starter, is a 2006 Woodinville graduate. Did Forde know Aaron or anyone else on the Idaho team when he began talking to the Vandals? "Yeah, we were in the same church so I knew him from there," Forde said of Lavarias. "And I knew a couple guys who committed to Idaho from my official visit. And Shiloh Keo, I kind of new of him because he went to Woodinville I think his sophomore year and then transferred. A lot of older guys in the program would talk about him but I didn't really know him. But I got to meet a lot of them on the trip."

Where big Maxx Forde will play along the Vandal defensive line remains to be seen, and could vary in the years ahead. "Coach Eti Ena was recruiting me, and I'm being recruited to play anywhere along the defensive line," Forde told GoVandals.net. "It sounds like we're going to start at defensive end and work from there."

For a 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive line prospect like Forde, it's versatility like this that should pay long-term dividends.

So could he move inside to defensive tackle? "Oh yeah, the school likes that idea," Forde said, also open to the idea himself. "And if I get a lot bigger or anything, then that's definitely a possibility that I could move inside to D-tackle. It all just depends how my body fills out."

What we do know is that offensive line is not in Forde's future at Idaho. "The University of Idaho hasn't talked to me about offense at all."

As much as Idaho fans look forward to seeing immediate help on the Vandal defensive front line in 2010, coach Robb Akey and staff have built enough defensive line depth over the last four years that Forde may have the ability to redshirt this fall rather than play right away. It really will come down to how Forde develops going into the season.

"The competitor in me always – you always want to compete and play," Forde said when asked about his preference. "But just knowing what the redshirt year can do for me, it would be nice to redshirt and take a year to get bigger, stronger and faster, all of that. Personally, I would probably want to play, but my parents both want me to redshirt, so we'll see who wins that battle."

In the not-so-distant past a player of Forde's caliber would have been playing next fall, no questions asked. But with the players in the system now, and the addition of a couple JC transfers that are expected to make an immediate impact this fall, redshirting is a realistic option for Forde in 2010.

So what does he bring to the Vandal defensive front? According to Scout.com, Forde (a 3-star prospect) is very technically sound, has good body control and balance, and has good moves to get past the offensive line. He has quick hands, but needs to add some more upper body strength.

It's a difficult question for most players to answer about themselves. "I'm not a guy that's really used to talking about himself too much," Forde told GoVandals.net. "But if you were to talk to my high school coach he would probably say the way I use my hands to get into and disengage from blockers."

Idaho coach Robb Akey didn't mince words. "I'm very excited about Maxx. I think he's one of the best players in the Northwest. He's a tremendous defensive end. He's a tremendous athlete. He brings great size with agility and speed to our football team. The sky is the limit in regards to his future. He tops that with a high character...great kid. A great gift for us."

A gift Vandal fans will be looking forward to watching develop in Moscow this fall and in the years ahead.

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