The Cougar is ready to become a Husky.
Friday was Van Soderberg’s last day as a student at Capital High School. On March 28, the University of Washington commit will begin spring quarter as one of six UW football recruits opting to enroll early.
He’s trading in the cardinal and gold for purple and gold.
“We’re keeping the gold, so I’m feeling like we’re still halfway, there’s still a connection,” Soderberg said. “So I’m feeling good about it.”
Not to say he didn’t soak up every bit of his final day as a high school student.
Soderberg said he took a picture with teachers from all six of his class periods and received well-wishes from other students. And six of his friends gathered in the parking lot after school for a final festivity. They filled two Gatorade buckets with water and proceeded to drench Soderberg in celebration.
“We were just excited for him going to UW and saying congratulations,” said Capital senior Dexter Morton, who is also Soderberg’s teammate. “We’re just happy for him and want him to remember high school with us.”
Soderberg remembers plenty. Every kick from Capital’s 49-7 senior night win against North Thurston. The game-winning field goal against Central Kitsap in 2014 that gave Capital a 3-0 edge. And his first varsity play — a sky kick off the tee into the corner against Centralia midway through his freshman season.
“As I was driving (to school), all of the memories just kind of went through my head and it kind of hit me — this is my last day as a student here,” Soderberg said. “I tried to go out of my way to say hi to people and tell them I was really appreciative of the things they’d done for me.
“Once the bell rang, I kind of felt myself drifting onto the next thing, which is going to be football at UW.”
Soderberg accepted a scholarship offer from UW on Aug. 5 as a punter. Before that, he received recruiting attention from Louisiana State, Washington State, Eastern Washington, San Diego State, Montana State and Idaho.
Soderberg started punting for Capital as a junior. He averaged 39 yards this past season, and downed 11 punts inside the 20-yard line.
He’s the only punter listed on The News Tribune’s Western 100, which includes the top recruits from 13 Western states and British Columbia.
“He’s one of the stronger kids in our program,” Capital football coach JD Johnson said. “His work ethic is, by far, that of a Division I characteristic.”
Soderberg is the first Pac-12 recruit during Johnson’s nine-year tenure at Capital. He’s the third Division I recruit behind Mat Cox (offensive lineman at North Dakota) and Mason Manning III (offensive lineman at Cornell).
At UW, Soderberg likely will compete with Tristan Vizcaino, who will be a junior, for playing time. Soderberg said part of the draw of enrolling early was to participate in spring practices.
The other five UW recruits enrolling early are Daniel Bridge-Gadd, a quarterback from Paradise Valley (Arizona); Sean McGrew, a running back from St. John Bosco (California); Taylor Rapp, a defensive back from Sehome; Myles Rice, a defensive lineman from Bush (Texas), and Amandre Williams, a defensive end from Tahoma.
Bridge-Gadd, Rapp and Rice are taking classes during winter quarter.
“Spring ball is obviously the first practice of the year,” Soderberg said. “I’ll have an extra two months to really get to know the guys, get to practice, and kind of adjust to the college lifestyle. So in the fall, we’ll be ready to go.”
During the transitional period before he heads to Seattle in March, Soderberg said he’ll work on kicking individually and continue to work out at Capital after school. He’ll play some piano and begin sorting through belongings. Maybe even take a trip back to Hawaii, where his family used to live.
“(The UW coaches said) it’s going to be a shock when you get up there, it’s going to be harder than anything you’ve done before, so they said to stay active, keep yourself busy,” Soderberg said.
Soderberg will sign his letter of intent with UW on Wednesday. And he said he would return to Capital for prom and graduation in the spring.
Aside from that? Johnson isn’t sure the next time he’ll run into the kicker he’s relied on for the last three-and-a-half seasons.
“You always have some of the kids you really get close to, and Van’s one of those for me,” Johnson said.
UW coach Chris Petersen visited Johnson in his classroom at Capital in December. They chatted about each of their seasons and Soderberg’s character and work ethic.
“I think, at UW, coach Petersen really looks for the person that fits that culture, that fits that mentality, looks for a specific thing in a kid, and (Van) has all that,” Johnson said.
As Soderberg moves on to the next phase, Johnson offered a few last pieces of advice.
“Continue to be who you are,” he said. “Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Remember who you are, where you came from. Remember the great qualities that make you the person you are, that those are the things that have gotten you this far.”