SHELTON – In a span of three days and 634 round-trip miles through two states, longtime friends David Ajamu and Ralph Kinne had a summer trip to remember.
In June, the Shelton High School football teammates – Ajamu is a tight end and Kinne a running back – packed their gear and themselves into a car to showcase their talents at football scouting combines and camps up and down the Interstate 5 corridor – from the Northwest Elite Football Camp on Mercer Island to the Nike SPARQ Camp in Tigard, Ore., near Portland to, finally, the Nike Football Training Camp in Eugene, Ore.
The travel eventually took its toll on the pair.
“It was a lot of driving,” Ajamu said, “… and sleeping on the side of the road.”
Well, not exactly on the side of the road. But Ajamu and Kinne did stop at a Portland McDonald’s parking lot for a quick two hours of rest, and stayed with family and friends the rest of the time.
“It was all worth it,” Ajamu said.
All worth it because within the span of a few days, Ajamu went from a virtual unknown in the high school football world to a sudden must-have for NCAA Division I football coaches. The 6-foot-4, 238-pound senior picked up scholarship offers from Portland State, Wyoming, Nevada, Oregon State and Washington State almost overnight. On June 8, at the Northwest Elite Football Camp founded by former Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser, Ajamu earned camp MVP honors for tight ends.
“He’s one of the hardest workers we’ve got offseason- wise,” Shelton coach Matt Hinkle said of Ajamu. “We’re really pleased with him and he’s bearing fruit in his commitment and drive.”
Ajamu didn’t want the burden of a college decision affecting his senior season, so after a recent weekend visit to the Oregon State University campus, he made a verbal commitment to the Beavers.
“What they run is perfect for me,” Ajamu said of the Beavers. “They use the tight ends a lot. There were a few schools I was leaning toward, but once I went to OSU, I felt wanted, I felt welcomed, I felt loved.”
Ajamu’s rise came after a stellar junior campaign in 2011. In a newly implemented spread offense at Shelton, he moved from offensive tackle to tight end because of the need for slot receivers. He won first-team all-4A Narrows League honors after catching 27 passes for 241 yards and five touchdowns.
When the spread offense didn’t work for Shelton, which had a 2-8 record, the team went to its traditional power run game led by Kinne, who also attracted interest from college programs, including Idaho, this summer.
Ajamu hopes the return of the traditional offense is a turning point for the Highclimbers this season as a new member of the 3A Narrows League. Ajamu has never been part of a winning season at Shelton.
“It’s all coming together,” he said. “I don’t want people to think that just because I’m verbally committed means that I’m not going to play hard this season.”
Home games in CAPS. All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 31: TUMWATER
Friday, Sept. 7: North Mason
Friday, Sept. 14: WILSON *
Friday, Sept. 21: Yelm
Friday, Sept. 28: FOSS *
Friday, Oct. 5: Lincoln *
Friday, Oct. 12: NORTH THURSTON *
Friday, Oct. 19: Mount Tahoma *
Friday, Oct. 26: Timberline * About the Highclimbers
Coach: Matt Hinkle, 19th year
2011 record: 2-8, 7th in Narrows 4A.
Offense: Coordinator (set) – Cary Nagel (multiple). Returning starters – 8. Top players – TE David Ajamu, 6-5, 235, sr.; RB Ralph Kinne, 5-10, 205, sr.; OL Jake Lindley, 6-4, 235, sr.; WR Michael Sobotka, 5-11, 175, jr.; QB Jared Welander, 6-4, 185, sr.; OL Kaleb Wright, 6-4, 285, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) – Matt Hinkle (4-3). Returning starters – 6. Top players – DL David Ajamu, 6-5, 235, sr.; DL DeShon Bell, 5-11, 205, sr.; DB Jake Frakes, 6-1, 175, sr.; LB Thomas Gettle, 6-2, 200, sr.; LB Brian Nault, 6-1, 200, so.
Outlook: Something about last season never clicked, and it wasn’t difficult for coach Matt Hinkle to identify: The Highclimbers and the spread offense do not mesh. So he and offensive coordinator Cary Nagel, a former Shelton player, are going back to the program’s roots as a power-running team. That should mean plenty of carries for Ralph Kinne, an all-purpose yardage email@example.com 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick * 3A Narrows League game firstname.lastname@example.org