Mitch Singler could have chosen a smaller school to continue his pursuits as a football player.
As an all-state wide receiver for South Medford High, where he wrapped up an impressive career with 137 catches for 2,785 yards and 31 touchdowns, Singler had any number of suitors at the small-school and mid-tier Division I levels.
WHO: A 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior wide receiver at Oregon State University.
With sure hands, a sprinter's speed and a 6-foot-3 frame just begging to be built upon, it's not like the 2009 graduate didn't have quicker options for getting on the football field.
Still, there was just something special about going to Oregon State University and playing under the likes of head coach Mike Riley.
Singler took the walk-on opportunity afforded him by Riley, and has gradually become more and more integrated into the team, even if the official statistics aren't eye-popping as he enters his last go-round as a Beavers player.
"It's definitely been a roller-coaster ride," said Singler, "but it's also definitely been worth it for me. You can't take away the experiences I've had. It's been so awesome to be part of Oregon State football."
So much fun, in fact, that Singler can hardly believe it's almost over.
"Looking at it right now," Singler said as he entered fall camp, "it still feels like the beginning of my college career. It's crazy to think that this is the last time I might be able to play football."
If it is the last run for Singler, he's hoping to make it a memorable one. He entered fall camp as the backup at slot receiver to fellow senior Kevin Cummings and has put in the work to be considered part of the receiving corps rotation for an OSU team that has high hopes for 2013.
"Going into it, being a walk-on and all, I thought that might mean I wouldn't get a shot," admitted Singler, "but if you put the work in and time and effort into the game, the opportunity will come."
"Coach Riley always tells you every day to get better, so that's just my attitude toward football," he added. "You always want to play but I'm a team guy so I like to get my team better and I guess that's just what I've been doing in a sense these past few years. Now that my opportunity has come to me, I've got to take full advantage of it and just see what happens."
Singler made his first three appearances on the field for Oregon State last season, finishing with four catches for 64 yards and one carry for 13 yards in limited duty for a Beavers team that started 6-0 but finished 9-4 after an Alamo Bowl loss to Texas.
His first career catch at Oregon State was both a blur and an unforgettable moment last year for Singler, who hauled in a 15-yard reception on his first snap against California.
"It was just one of the best feelings of my life," Singler said, barely able to contain his excitement. "The first play you go in and the first play is called for you and then, bam, it's your first catch. It was just awesome."
"It was kinda nerve-wracking at first," he added. "When you go out there for the first time your heart kinda stops and you look around wondering what the heck is going on with about 45,000 people in the stands watching you. When I got back in the huddle, my teammates were like, 'Finally you're in the books,' and when I went off to the sideline coach Riley and my receivers coach (Brent Brennan) just were grinning and shook their heads and said, 'Well, there you go.'"
Singler's remaining three catches, and his only rushing attempt, came later in the season during a 77-3 rout of Nicholls State. The sensation of contributing to the team was there still, albeit with a little more tongue-in-cheek humor from his coach.
"I caught a high screen and outran a guy down the sideline and I could've dived and got the touchdown but I didn't feel like I wanted to because if I went to extend the ball across the plane I might have lost it," recalled Singler. "When I got off to the sideline, coach Riley was right there and he smiled and said, 'What, you didn't want to score or anything?'"
Singler said he's definitely hoping he has that chance, among others, again this year.
"The team comes first, that's the way it's been from when I've grown up," he said, "but definitely when you have experiences like those you want to build on it. Now the sky's the limit and we'll see what happens this year and let it all play out."
Singler said Oregon State's receiver corps definitely took a hit with the loss of good friend and playmaker Markus Wheaton to the NFL, but the Beavers still have a host of weapons on the perimeter, especially with the return of junior Brandin Cooks.
"I think as a wide receiver corps we're kinda up there with USC and every other school in the nation," said Singler. "We're really athletic and fast and run good routes. I think we have another star in the making in Brandin Cooks and he's been working his tail off in the offseason to prove himself."
That goes for the rest of the Beavers, who are determined to build on the positives of 2012 and finish this season on a higher note.
"We've been working really hard in the offseason," said Singler. "I think we've all had a common goal and that's to be Pac-12 Conference champions and go to the Rose Bowl or even better."
Who is at the reins at quarterback is anyone's guess, according to Singler. Senior Cody Vaz and junior Sean Mannion each had big moments last season and are equally capable of navigating the Beavers to another standout campaign.
"I think everyone wants to know who the quarterback will be, and even we want to know, but honestly I don't think anyone knows at this point," said Singler. "It's a tossup. As a team we know we can win with both guys so whoever gets the starting job heading into Week 1 after fall camp, we'll get on his back and ride with him and get better with whoever the coaches decide is the starter."
"We'll have a pretty good backup quarterback no matter who they choose," he added. "Both have proven they can win and proven to be leaders on our team so whoever gets the job definitely deserves it."
Beyond the field, Singler said he believes his experience has been just as invaluable at OSU. He attended the NCAA National Career in Sports forum as a football representative in June 2012, and has been involved in OSU's student-athlete advising committee, doing various community service projects.
He made his desire to one day become a football coach, like his father Bill, very clear to Riley early on and has been put on a fast track by the coaching staff to better his understanding of the game he loves for the future. Singler said Brennan has implored him to help teach the freshman receivers the team's offense and how to run their routes, and he's been asked to stay on after the season and serve as a graduate assistant with the Beavers.
"I'm pretty excited about that because I want to go into coaching so they're just kinda helping me get a jumpstart into that," said Singler, who will graduate this winter with a degree in marketing and a minor in new media communications.
"I feel like I've just become an overall better man since I've been here," he added. "I think coach Riley, with his culture of football, he wants you to become a better person off the field and I feel like I've gained so much. Overall I'm a better person and I'm more open with people, to go along with being a better football player. It's just kinda endless what I've gained."