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Originally published Saturday, March 5, 2011 at 8:05 PM

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Florida football recruits couldn't wait to get started at Washington State

Isiah Myers, Henry Eaddy and Darryl Monroe, from Orlando, Fla., signed with the Cougars and finished high school early so they could come to Pullman this winter, in time for spring practice.

Seattle Times staff reporter

PULLMAN — Isiah Myers was a junior receiver in Orlando, Fla., and one of his high-school coaches told him he was being recruited by a school in the state of Washington.

"I thought it was the UW," says Myers. "That was the only school I knew in Washington. I had it in my head it was the purple-and-gold team, for a good month and a half."

That disconnect might seem to reflect the difficulty of Washington State going to Florida and making a meaningful recruiting strike. It's three time zones away, the climate is dramatically different, and WSU hasn't exactly played the kind of football recently to command prospects to attention.

Now multiply those challenges with the notion of signed recruits graduating high school a few months ahead of schedule, missing senior activities and coming here in midwinter. That's what three Orlando products — Myers, receiver Henry Eaddy and linebacker Darryl Monroe — are doing at WSU.

"Everybody asks, 'Are you homesick yet?' " Eaddy says. "Nah. This place is pretty homey. Everybody makes you feel pretty comfortable. Everybody is close-knit."

"I don't know if it's gonna happen later on," says Myers, referring to homesickness. "But this first month — nothing."

Cougars defensive coordinator Chris Ball recruits Oakland, Calif., and when the talent level there appeared thin for this class, he decided to follow up on a tip from a WSU alum in Florida. Ball had recruited the state as an assistant at Alabama from 2003 to 2006.

"I went down there to find some skill guys," says Ball.

At Olympia High in Orlando, he found Eaddy, an undersized (5 feet 8) but explosive receiver/return man that Ball says is "very, very fast" and has a 42-inch vertical jump.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Myers "has some of the best hands in the state of Florida," says his prep coach, Bob Head. "He's not as fast as Henry, but his route-running, his separation and his blocking are incredible."

Monroe (6-1, 215), said WSU coach Paul Wulff on signing day, "is going to bring us some attitude and physical play at that position."

Ball says Florida high schools have 21 days of spring football, which serves to refine the recruiting process.

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"You get to watch 'em hit and play football," he says. "You can really do a good job of evaluating."

Ball was one of the earliest to evaluate the three, and that stuck with all of them.

"I have to tip my hat to coach Ball," says Monroe, who began as Olympia teammates with Eaddy and Myers but transferred to Dr. Phillips High. "He did a great job recruiting me. He made me feel there was more to this place than I thought there was.

"The first question he asked me was: 'Do you want to play football outside the state of Florida?' I said, 'I hate Florida. I've been here all my life.' "

As chancy as a foray into Florida might seem, it has worked for other Northwest schools. Rick Neuheisel's staff at Washington succeeded with kicker John Anderson, running back Rich Alexis and receiver Charles Frederick. Oregon State capitalized with future NFL safety Sabby Piscatelli and running back Yvenson Bernard.

"Down here, these kids will go anywhere," says Head. "They were eager to visit, and once they visited, they fell in love with the campus, the coaching staff and the team."

Oddly, the potential negative of distance seemed to have the opposite effect on the three. More than intimidated, they were intrigued.

"I just never thought they would be recruiting me," says Monroe. "It was out of the ordinary."

"That's what made me like this place so much, because it was so far," Myers says. "It made me like it even more."

They didn't just take a flyer. They researched WSU on the Internet and took unofficial visits to WSU with family members. By last June, they had committed.

Time will tell if the incursion into Florida will endure. For one, all three are rated as two-star prospects, but WSU has struck before with modestly ranked recruits.

Meanwhile, they give off a maturity that suggests they can handle the hurdles of a cross-country college experience.

"My mom was always talking about how I should venture out," Eaddy says, "not necessarily staying in Florida and be used to what I'm doing each and every day. She said it might be a good opportunity to open doors and have some fun in my life."

They and their new teammates start spring football Monday, with the spring game April 16. That happens to be the night of the senior prom at Olympia High.

Says Myers, smiling, "I'll trade prom for the spring game."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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