Oertel flying high on all things crimson

FEW EXPERIENCE SUCH prep football success as has future Coug Eric Oertel. He was the player of the year in his conference -- unanimously, and on both defense and offense -- and was also named the Gatorade Wisconsin Football Player of the Year. He was in Pullman earlier this month and if there was an overriding theme coming out of his visit, it was this: Belief is a powerful thing.

Eric Oertel (6-1, 185, 4.58) out of Racine-Lutheran in Wisconsin verbally committed to Washington State, sight unseen, back in October. He got his first look at his future home during the visit weekend of Dec. 4. While on campus, Oertel and several of his future teammates texted each other back and forth, repeating the same message: "I smell roses."

"We are going to turn things around," said Oertel. "My hope is that in the next few years, it's the Rose Bowl. That bond we have, if you add that with the work ethic that everyone there is willing to put in, mix that with the coaches and the great drive they have, then you can have a real great team."

Oertel said the official visit to WSU surpassed all of his expectations.

"I went into the weekend hoping it was going to be a good visit and that I'd like what I saw," said Oertel. "But I was really surprised at how great everything was, how great everything went. I really bonded with the (players and coaches), I'm really happy I made the decision to commit.

"I was really impressed with what (players and coaches) had to say. They were just real with us, they were straight up on any question we had for them... It felt like home to me."

AMONG THE MANY plaudits Oertel captured this season in addition to those already named, first-team Associated Press and co-Offensive Player of the Year on the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-State team. His offensive exploits are well known -- he set the single-season and career rushing records in Racine County, with 2,731 yards and 5,695 career hashes, respectively.

Not as well documented was his play on defense his senior season, where he's projected to line up at Washington State. Final '09 statistics were unavailable at press time but through Week 8 this season, he had already racked up 80 tackles (48 solo) from his linebacker spot.

"He reads and reacts so fast," said prep coach Scott Smith. "There was one play where it was a screen to the other side of the field. He read it instantly, got over there to the other side of the field, tackled the kid for a loss.

"He's a good tackler, with good form. He stays low, sinks his hips and then rotates his hips. That's what makes a good tackler, when he rotates his hips through, and that's what Eric does."

OERTEL'S PARENTS ALSO came along on the visit to Washington State.

"They were really impressed, too. They could tell, just the way I was reacting to everything, that I liked it...They told coach (Paul) Wulff, and coach (Travis) Niekamp too, and probably more than they needed to, how much they liked the school and how much they thought it fit me," said Oertel.

Oertel, also an excellent student, helped lead Racine-Lutheran to their first ever WIAA state semi-final. Preseason, R-L was expected to finish in the lower half of their conference.

"I'm excited for what's to come this summer," said Oertel. "Really, on the first day there, I saw enough to get my blood flowing a little bit...I realized the coaches were really down to earth and that it's going to be a pleasure playing for WSU for the next 4-5 years, so I can't wait for that."

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