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Recruiting trail

When you win your crosstown rivalry football game in record fashion, how do you celebrate?

When you’re South Medford senior Chase Cota, it’s by hopping on a plane the next day to take an official visit to UCLA for the Bruins’ home game against Colorado (a 27-23 win for UCLA).

Less than 24 hours after torching North Medford with eight catches for 177 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-6 victory, Cota was in a familiar position, soaking up the atmosphere of what his future may hold after this season.

“It’s just been kind of a year where things have been different than most everybody else, but I’m fine with it,” Cota said of his high-profile recruitment. “It kind of wears on you a little bit, but I kind of make it whatever I want it to be at the time so I don’t let it get to be too much.”

A week prior, the four-star receiver was on his official visit to Notre Dame, and he now has three more official visits to take before ultimately making a decision from among his seven finalists, which also include Alabama, California, Georgia, Oregon and USC.

There is no telltale sign from Cota when it comes to figuring out which schools he plans to visit or in what order. It depends on how his schedule works out.

Cota has had discussions to make an official visit to Alabama on Oct. 22 for the Crimson Tide’s game against Tennessee. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder said his final two official visits likely won’t come until the beginning of December, and hasn’t decided where those will be.

“I don’t just take visits just to be able to tweet about it,” said Cota. “Either my dad (ex-NFL and Oregon standout Chad Cota) will really like the coach, or we really like the football team, or the school is really good academically with a lot of good connections. There’s always a reason to everything.”

And as fun as it is to have recruiters fawn all over him, Cota, 17, is also getting a crash course in what it’s like to go on job interview after job interview.

“I’m so used to talking to people I don’t know now, nothing really fazes me,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people from around the country and even though it’s different, by the end of it you still end up able to crack jokes with them and have fun like it’s no big deal. You get a lot more out of it than just maybe I’m going to your college. It really is a good learning experience for me.”

Cota plans to get a business degree while in college, potentially with a minor in music. With the online classes he is taking, along with his regular course load at South Medford, Cota plans to graduate early this winter and take advantage of the college football early signing period from Dec. 20-22.

Graduating early will mean Cota will not be playing basketball this winter for the Panthers, and it will allow him to enroll early at his chosen college and be eligible to get a headstart on his transition by participating in spring training and practices.

Where that final destination may be is still an unknown for Cota, who legitimately holds no favorites and doesn’t expect to make his decision until early December.

Asked if he is excited or concerned about making his choice, Cota was on the fence.

“Both, and then some,” he said with a laugh, “because I really don’t know where I want to go yet. I feel like a lot of people really want to know and are anticipating it, but I just hope the rest of my officials go good. I kind of try not to think about it because I’m not going to do anything until after the season. I just keep praying about it and talking to all my relatives about it and hopefully it just winds up right because I’m really just another kid going to college.”

That level of humility also leaves Cota wanting to downplay his choice, as much as possible, once it’s made. But that isn’t likely to happen given the public interest and the wishes of the South Medford administration.

“I don’t want to make it all about myself,” said Cota. “If anything, I’d want to do it with my team and not be crazy hype about it. But our own administrators want to make it a thing in the gym, so it’s kind of, whatever, for me right now. Whatever everyone around me thinks is a good idea, I’ll be OK with it. I’m usually pretty down for anything.”

Cota has led the Southwest Conference in receiving the past two seasons and, with last Friday’s effort, has now caught 22 passes for 420 yards and eight touchdowns heading into this week’s homecoming game against Grants Pass.

— Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

South Medford senior wide receiver Chase Cota (23) makes a move against North Medford's Josh Baptiste for extra yards in the second half of their game Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium. [ANDY ATKINSON/MAIL TRIBUNE]