T.J. Fehoko went crimson for two big reasons

ON THE SCALE of Signing Day surprises, it didn't turn heads like Michael Bumpus in 2004 or C.J. Mizell in 2010, but T.J. Fehoko's decision to sign with Washington State yesterday rather than North Carolina State did catch much of the recruiting world off guard. The West's No. 13-rated defensive end prospect says two people get the most credit for turning him into a Cougar.

WSU assistant coach Joe Salave’a was key to his signing, he said. And so was Thomas Toki.

Together, that's more than 600 pounds of persuasive sales pitching.

Toki, in addition to being the very first verbal commit in WSU's 2015 class and one of the nation's top defensive tackle prospects, he is also Fehoko's cousin.

“We took our official visit together and he was always telling me how we could go over there and put in work,” Fehoko said of Toki. “He would call and text me to make sure WSU was always an option for me. I’m looking forward to playing with him in college, definitely.”

The day before LOIs were to be signed, Toki tweeted that he was hoping Fehoko would see the crimson light.

As for Salave’a, Fehoko said, “Coach Joe and I have a good relationship. He did a good job of recruiting me. Whenever he’d come to my house for the in-home visits, we’d have good talks and he always kept things real with me. Most coaches aren’t honest with you all the time, but he was.

“I called him right before the announcement to let him know I was going to Washington State. He was very excited to hear the news ... The thing about d-lineman is that we have something special about us. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed playing since I was little. We’re known as the nasty guys on the team and we have the chip on our shoulders. That’s something I take pride in.”

Salave’a played defensive tackle for eight seasons in the NFL.

TO CALL FEHOKO'S FOUR YEARS at Cottonwood High in Salt Lake City outstanding would be an understatement of seismic proportion. A four-year starter, he recorded 322 tackles and a mind-numbing 77 sacks -- 55 of them over the last two years despite frequent double- and triple-teams.

He was named All-State three straight seasons. And the lone year he wasn't picked, as a freshman in 2011, he was named all-region and Cottonwood's defensive MVP. He capped his prep career this past season with state defensive player of the year honors.

He attracted a ton of attention from college recruiters and initially committed verbally to Colorado. Some staff changes by the Buffs prompted him to open things back up, and he considered offers from an array of schools. Besides WSU and N.C. State, the list included Utah, Oregon State, Nevada, Army, Pitt and Vanderbilt, among others.

“I was down to N.C. State, Nevada and WSU. When I took my trip to WSU (Apple Cup), though, I was comfortable. It’s not too far from home and I really liked the family environment. The coaches were what really made it for me too, especially Joe Salave’a.”

Playing in the Pac-12, at a high level of competition with and against many friends, is something he's looking forward to, Fehoko told CF.C late Wednesday night.

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