South Medford junior wide receiver Chase Cota proved hard work does pay off this past weekend and, in the process, earned an invitation to The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters in June.
Cota was one of hundreds competing Sunday in an elite football camp sponsored by Nike. At The Opening Los Angeles regional — one of 13 Nike regional events — he posted the top overall rating with a score of 127.59 in testing that measures athleticism against height and weight.
Cota’s rating placed him in the 99th percentile of all the Nike football athletes tested in his class. He had high hopes of scoring around 130 after ramping up his training recently but certainly didn’t plan on finishing with the top rating overall.
“I thought it was awesome to find out I finished first,” said the 6-foot-4, 195-pound standout, “especially because LA is known for having some of the fastest and most dynamic playmakers as far as it goes for the West Coast. For me to test better than them was pretty special for me.”
Cota’s tally was about 12 points better than his next closest competitor, fellow wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown of Mater Dei High in California. In all, 10 players received invites to The Opening Finals, which brings all the top prep football talents to Oregon for a showcase each year.
On Sunday, Cota ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds, completed the 20-yard agility shuttle in 4.13 seconds, leaped 36½ inches in the vertical jump and tossed the 6-pound power ball from his knees 43 feet. Of those numbers, all were in the 99th percentile except the vertical, which was in the 98th percentile.
“It’s pretty cool, they have it pretty dialed in because they’ve been doing it for years so they have a good system for it,” Cota said of the scoring. “They try to take into consideration that a 6-4 guy probably won’t run as fast as someone 5-9 or a 270-pound lineman isn’t going to break a 4.8 in the 40, so they have a system for figuring it all out.”
Cota, who measured in at 6-3½, actually posted the fourth-fastest time in the 40 with his 4.53 finishing behind only California’s Jamaal Bell and Isaac Taylor Stuart, who each ran 4.43, and Arizona’s Jawhar Jordan, who ran 4.48.
“I’ve been working toward this definitely for the last couple months pretty hard,” said Cota. “During basketball it was kind of tough, but right when it ended I was going out multiple days a week just catching the ball and doing all the training I could do to be ready.”
Traveling to such events is nothing new to Cota, who regularly is on the road to different camps and school visits. In fact, he spent last Saturday watching a USC football practice as part of an unofficial visit and was on the UCLA campus Monday for the first time to check out what it has to offer.
“I’m just enjoying it,” Cota said of the recruiting process. “Everywhere I’ve been has been really nice and everyone has been really good to me.”
Cota set the South Medford High record for single-game receiving yards with a 282-yard, 10-catch effort against Sheldon in 2015 and last season was recognized on the Class 6A all-state first team as a receiver and second team as a defensive back after helping the Panthers to a Southwest Conference championship.
Cota led the SWC in 2016 with 729 receiving yards on 40 catches with 10 touchdowns.
Cota has received considerable attention coming up the ranks. His father, Chad, played eight years in the NFL at safety. His cousin, Brady Breeze, was recruited to Chad alma mater, Oregon, as a safety and is an alum of The Opening Finals.
Chase Cota holds scholarship offers so far from Boise State, California, Dartmouth, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, USC, Utah, Vanderbilt and Washington State.
Being able to secure his invitation to The Opening Finals at such an early date has Cota considering a less stressful travel schedule through the spring and early summer months. His training, however, will not take a break as he works with several South Medford teammates, his father and other trainers while also competing in track.
“I don’t know if I’m going to do any more camps, but I’ll definitely go on some visits,” he said, noting planned trips in the next month or so to both in-state institutions and California.
Cota has no time frame for committing to a school and is open to all opportunities.
“I’m definitely open to anything,” said the 17-year-old future business major. “It’s really just all about finding the right fit because everybody has really good programs and facilities. It’s more about socially where I fit in and with the academics that goes with the athletics.”
Cota cannot go on official visits until his senior season but is in regular contact with officials at the schools that have shown interest. While he competes in camps as a wide receiver, Cota isn’t ruling anything out playing on either side of the line of scrimmage.
“I feel more comfortable on offense as of right now, but I think I could develop into a pretty good defensive player,” he said. “Really, it’s just wherever they want to put me that gets me on the field first. I think I can adapt to anything.”
Cota said his father has provided support, having gone through it all when the Ashland High standout chose Oregon over Utah. But Chad Cota is taking a secondary role to make sure his son finds the right fit for him.
“Being able to take advice from all my family helps a lot but he’s always said, where you want to go to college is your decision,” said Cota. “My dad is definitely just trying to help me out and guide me when I need it, but at the end of the day it’s my choice so I’m just weighing it all out.”
Cota said he could commit to a college as soon as the end of the summer or it could be on signing day next February.
Until then, he’s just happy to have an opportunity to compete with the elite players this country has to offer this summer in Beaverton.
“I’ve just heard it’s the best experience there is for high school football, so I’m excited about it,” said Cota.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry