Caden Ochoa knew long ago that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was the right fit for him while Justin McGill was still uncertain about his future, even as recently as last month.
But thanks to a new 72-hour early signing period for high school senior football players to sign National Letters of Intent — six weeks before the standard signing day in February — the two Bakersfield High seniors were able to make their life-long dreams of playing college football a reality.
On Wednesday, Ochoa signed to Cal Poly and McGill will play at Sacramento State.
While his mom was making breakfast and dad, Troy, was on a Facetime call, Ochoa pulled out the paperwork on the kitchen counter to make the next four-to-five years of his life official.
“It was something we all wanted since I was young,” Ochoa said. “This was expected, but earned. Now that it’s happened, it’s exciting.”
McGill said that right after he signed to play for the Hornets, he gave his dad, Thomas, a long embrace.
“He was really happy. I just gave a two minute hug,” McGill said. “He just told me that I worked so hard for this my whole life.”
McGill and Ochoa are slated to play safety in college, and were the only Kern County players The Californian had confirmed signed to play college football on Wednesday.
The early signing day period began this year to allow high school seniors who already have a strong verbal commitment to the college program to sign long before the standard signing day that will fall on Feb. 7.
This allows the athletes, and coaches, to end the recruiting process, which can be long and drawn out.
“It was awesome,” Ochoa said of making it official six weeks before the standard signing day. “There was a lot of stuff going on at school with finals, but so many people coming up and congratulating me.”
Ochoa also stated that he was ready to make it official somewhere he “fit right in.”
“I knew from the start it was 100 percent Cal Poly,” Ochoa said. “I was never going to change my mind. Signing earlier really made it easier because it was going to happen no matter what.”
Ochoa became a leader for BHS this season as the starting quarterback and starting linebacker. He threw for 431 yards, ran for another 600, and accounted for 12 total touchdowns.
Ochoa recorded 70 tackles and forced four fumbles this season for the Drillers.
He is also the first recipient of Cal Poly's Osbaldo Orozco Memorial Football Scholarship.
Orozco, a graduate of Delano High, starred at linebacker for Cal Poly before being killed in action while as a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Army in 2003.
“It’s a blessing and honor to be the first recipient,” Ochoa said. “I loved everything about (Cal Poly). The campus, the academics, the school life. It was different from everywhere else.”
McGill wasn’t as sure of his future until Sac State offered him on Nov. 17.
“It was blessing because I didn’t know even for sure where I was going to go,” he said. “But then I got the offer, I jumped on it.”
McGill caught 15 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown at wide receiver. Defensively, he recorded 54 tackles, two sacks and had grabbed an interception from the safety position. He also returned a 58-yard interception for a touchdown in the 41-6 win over Liberty in the Central Section Division I quarterfinals.