He had chances to play at a higher level — Portland State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas — but it just didn’t feel right for Russell Gordon.
So he and his family flew from their home in North Hollywood, Calif., to Winona to check out Winona State University and its football program.
You could call it love at first sight.
“I was a little concerned at first when I got off the plane (in November). I live outside LA, so it snows once a year,” Gordon said. “It is cold, but a different type of cold.”
Gordon, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound quarterback, has the potential to bring plenty of heat. He passed for more than 5,000 yards and 48 TDs in his prep career, and is one of three quarterbacks in the Warriors’ 28-member 2012 recruiting class, which was announced Wednesday.
Michael Powell, at 6-4, 185, threw for 1,240 yards during an All-State senior season at York, Neb. The third quarterback in the latest recruiting class is Rob Daul, a 6-4, 245-pound sophomore transfer from White Bear Lake, Minn., who most recently played at Coffeyville Community College.
“His dad is a high school coach at Palmdale. We saw the kid through a recruiting service, so we sent it (video) to Cameron Keller,” Winona State coach Tom Sawyer said of Keller, his co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
“He said, ‘This kid is awesome and we need to get him.’”
It wouldn’t be easy, but the Warriors stayed aggressive throughout the recruiting process. That, plus the fact Winona State runs a very similar, wide-open offense, excited Gordon.
“They were on top of me from the beginning,” Gordon said. “I wanted to be somewhere where I was wanted and they definitely wanted me.”
Gordon has the credentials to compete for a starting job, but he faces stiff competition from John Teigland, a University of Nebraska-Omaha transfer who was injured much of last season. Sawyer said Teigland applied for — and was granted — a medical redshirt, meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining.
Bryan Bradshaw, who started when Teigland went down, then too was injured, has two years eligibility remaining.
“I know I am coming to a place with a tremendous amount of talent,” Gordon said of Winona State, which finished 7-4 last season and narrowly missed earning a postseason game. “I am a competitor; I always want to play.
“I got to watch some film of John Teigland play. I’m going in with the mindset I want to make the team better.”
Gordon calls himself a pocket passer who makes things happen. He loved the offense his team ran at Palmdale, and said Sawyer reminds him of someone close to him.
“Every time I got to talk to coach Sawyer, he was a character. He was upfront with me, always. He reminded me a lot of my old high school coach, who happens to be my dad,” Gordon said.
“I really like the offense they run because we run the exact same stuff. That was one of the biggest parts in the decision. I am coming from an offense where we run basically the same plays, just different terminology.”
Sawyer, whose recruiting class covered 28 players from nine different states, was very happy to see Gordon commit to Winona State.
“A couple of Division I-AA’s came in this (Wednesday) morning and tried to get him,” Sawyer said. “To be honest, we didn’t think we would get him. Once he and his parents visited, you could see it was just the right fit.”
WSU RECRUITING CLASS / 2012
NAME POSITION HEIGHT WEIGHT PREVIOUS SCHOOL
Zach Bisek P 6-4 195 Arcadia, Wis.
Collin Corcoran LB 6-4 220 Crystal Lake, Ill.
Rob Daul QB 6-4 245 White Bear Lake/Coffeyville CC
RJ Gordon QB 6-1 190 Palmdale, Calif.
Will Griffin RB 5-9 205 Cedar Rapids, Iowa
JJ Flor DB 6-2 195 Sussex, Wis.
Peter Herman DE 6-4 240 Arcadia, Wis.
Jack Ihrke DB 5-10 190 Plainview, Minn.
Mike Imperiale LB 6-2 210 Addison, Ill.
Obed Jean-Baptiste LB 6-2 210 Rice Lake, Wis.
Cameron Johnson WR 6-3 217 Springfield, Mo.
Alex Jorgenson OL 6-5 260 Colby (Dorchester, Wis.).
Jordan Kos RB 5-11 195 Gurnee, Ill.
Darby Lundy DB 5-10 175 Hollywood, Fla./Ellsworth CC
Nick Margiotta TE 6-4 240 Crystal Lake, Ill.
Zach Olsted LB 5-11 205 Fillmore Central
Michael Powell QB 6-4 185 York, Neb.
Paul Preston RB 5-4 160 Park Ridge, Ill.
Ryan Ramczyk OL 6-5 260 Stevens Point, Wis.
Kresean Reed-Franklin DB 6-0 200 Phoenix, Ariz./Phoenix College
Willie Resop RB 6-2 225 Appleton/Univ. Wisconsin
Derek Smidt DB 5-11 170 G-E-T
Collin Smith OL 6-2 255 Muskego, Wis.
Steve Smith OL 6-2 285 Mabel-Canton
Tyler Swinford WR 5-11 185 Yucaipa, Calif.
Brad Walovitch DB 5-11 185 Lake Crystal, Ill.
Matt Weber LB 6-5 200 Rogers, Minn.
Jarrett Wood LB 6-3 215 Vernon Hills, Ill.