ATWATER — For Armando Gauger, it seemed fitting to celebrate National Signing Day in the Atwater High weight room.
That’s where he was surrounded by family, friends, coaches and teammates on Wednesday as he signed his letter of intent to attend Southern Oregon.
“I practically lived in the weight room so it makes sense to do my signing there,” Gauger said. “I was highly dedicated to football. All the work I put in there helped me get to this day.”
Gauger missed his sophomore season when he broke his leg in practice during a punting drill. Determined not to start behind all his other teammates, he spent countless hours working out.
“As soon as I got my cast off I used that as motivation,” Gauger said. “I wanted to start when I got to varsity. I stayed so long in the weight room I was often the last one in there and told to make sure to lock up. I didn’t want to have the disadvantage of not playing junior varsity to hold me back.
“I may not have spent as much time the last couple years but I’ve worked with the same passion.”
Gauger turned himself into a first-team all-Central California Conference defensive lineman this past fall. He recorded 71 tackles and six sacks as the Falcons used him all over the defensive line.
“He’s relentless,” Atwater head coach Bob Valladao said. “He goes 100 percent all the time. He has a great motor, he’s coachable, he’s intense. He’s a great kid.”
Gauger says the plan for him at Southern Oregon is to play outside linebacker or defensive end. He verbally committed to the Ashland school a little over a week ago after visiting the campus last month.
“When I got there all the coaches knew my name,” Gauger said. “They had done their research. They were very impressed with my game film. They liked my motor and determination. I liked hanging out with them. It seemed like they wanted me. They told me I was there No. 1 defensive recruit.”
Valladao said Southern Oregon showed interest in Gauger as a junior.
“I think it’s a good fit for him,” Valladao said. “I think he can have an impact right away.”
Making his decision official meant a lot to Gauger.
“It marks my journey to go on to college and play football,” he said. “It marks the next chapter of my life.”
Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.