POULSBO — High school football players across the nation signed their names Feb. 7, each one laying the groundwork for their respective steps into the next level of competition.
It was the NCAA’s national letter of intent signing day and at North Kitsap High School before the first bell, senior Aaron Salo sat at a conference table with pen in hand and a smile on his face.
As he etched his name on the last line of a letter of intent to play for the the NCAA Division II Western Oregon University Wolves next year, a quest that lasted for months and covered hundreds of miles finally reached its end.
“There’s a lot of relief,” Salo said. “Now I can kind of just drift through the rest of my senior year, focus on my school work and get in the weight room.”
That weight room — where success is earned — is a fitting place for the 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound linebacker who played a utility role of sorts for the Vikings last fall.
Listed on the roster as a linebacker as well as an offensive lineman, Salo saw time at guard and center on offense as well as linebacker, end and on the interior line on defense.
One of Salo’s intangible qualities equally evident no matter what position he played was his love of the game.
“The thing we really like about Aaron is how hard he plays, the attitude he has and the work ethic he displays,” said WOU head football coach Arne Ferguson. “Having that personal drive to succeed is one of the things that we look for in all of our players.”
Salo is a part of one of the Wolves’ biggest recruiting classes in history, according to WOU sports information director Russ Blunck. The program itself, Salo said, looks to be on the upswing; in 2006, the Wolves finished with a record of 6-4.
“They are gradually getting better … they beat Linfield last year which is good for me,” he said, adding that it will be nice to face schools like Linfield and Western and Central Washington universities because, “I’ll get to play against the teams that didn’t want me.”
Finishing the 2006 season with 11 solo tackles and two sacks to boast of, Salo worked his way to the right fit at the college level simply by shopping around. Applying to a total of 12 schools and making visits to half of them, the coaching staff and members of the team at WOU cinched his decision as he saw the school first hand at the beginning of the month.
“I just like the environment,” he said. “The coaches are really focused on the players as individuals.”
“He does need to get bigger,” Freguson said of Salo. “He can play D-end, he can play backer, but with his explosiveness off the line we also see him as an interior D-lineman that will work into the rotation.”