Skip to main content

Tight-lipped to the end, Rainier Beach blue-chip recruit Joshua Conerly Jr. gives Oregon the surprise final nod

Many knew that Conerly's final two schools were the Ducks and USC, but only his parents were informed of where he was going leading up to his announcement Friday

SEATTLE - Five-star Rainier Beach offensive tackle Joshua Conerly Jr. has big plans for a long career in the NFL protecting quarterbacks.

If somehow that didn't work out, it was obvious Friday he could entertain another big-money career in something else.


He has the face for it.

In a classic recruiting showdown between Pacific-12 Conference powerhouses Oregon and USC, Conerly's expressionless staredown kept coaches - and fans - from both schools at the edge of their seats right up to the final second.

It wasn't until Conerly pulled a Ducks' hat out of a small backpack and put it on that the battle was over. Oregon's come-from-behind quest was complete.

"Oregon came a long way to get back into the race," Rainier Beach football coach Corey Sampson said. "A couple of months ago, they were out of it."

Mario Cristobal left the Ducks to take the Miami job in early December. A week later, Dan Lanning's name surfaced as the replacement, which became official by the end of that month.

At the same time, Conerly - regarded as the nation's top offensive tackle prospect by many recruiting sites - wanted to narrow his college choices to six finalists.

"I told them, Josh is about to drop his top six (schools), and you guys are not on it, so you might want to call him ... and establish a relationship quickly," Sampson said.

Rainier Beach football coach Corey Sampson shares a moment with 5-star offensive tackle Joshua Conerly Jr. before the teenager announces he will sign with Oregon over USC.

Rainier Beach football coach Corey Sampson, left, shares a moment with his 5-star offensive tackle Joshua Conerly Jr. before the teenager announced his college choice.

The Ducks made up ground in a hurry, making Conerly's top-six cut in early January - and closing rapidly on what many perceived as the favorite - USC.

And they kept giving the the Anthony Munoz Award winner more to think about - enough that Conerly make an impromptu visit to Eugene last weekend.

On Wednesday, Conerly had made a firm decision on the Ducks, but didn't inform his parents until Friday.

"Honestly, it felt the closest to home away from home," Conerly said.. "It was a tough decision picking Eugene over (Los Angeles). I’ve always lived in a city … but I want to live in more of a college town."

And, of course, he wanted to go to a program that could develop him for the NFL.

"I am going to a college where I truly believe I can get to the next level," Conerly said.

And yet, nobody was certain which program Conerly was going to declare to Friday.

"Josh is a poker-face guy. He is not going to reveal anything," Sampson said. "I had no clue."

Well, there was one hidden clue bouncing around the gymnasium that became visible later. His younger brother, JoJo, was wearing the same Ducks jersey given to him a few years ago - except that it was too small.

"Looks great on him," said Conerly with a grin. "It's finally being put to use."