Nolan Hoiness going home to play college football at Idaho

Nolan Hoiness’ college football experience will be a homecoming of sorts.

Hoquiam High School’s all-state senior running back verbally committed last weekend to continue his career at the University of Idaho.

Hoiness was born in Moscow and lived there for seven years while his father, Grays Harbor Bearcats coach Todd Hoiness, was an assistant coach at Idaho. The elder Hoiness, like his son a Hoquiam High standout, also played for the Vandals.

The desire to return to his roots figured heavily into Nolan’s decision.

“I still consider it my home town because I was raised there,” Hoiness said Tuesday. “Also, I decided I wanted to major in business and they have one of the top business schools in the country.

“I used to dream of playing for them, just like my dad did,” he added. “It all fell together.”

The 17-year-old Hoiness said he and his father knew several members of the Vandal coaching staff, including newly appointed head coach Paul Petrino.

The brother of former University of Arkansas and current Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino, Paul Petrino was on the same Vandal staff as Todd Hoiness and later became an assistant coach at the University of Illinois and the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons.

Hoiness will not, however, be making his commitment official on today’s opening day of national letter of intent signing.

He will be “gray-shirting” at Idaho. That means he will not enroll at the Moscow school until next January, then take part in spring drills while maintaining a full four years of eligibility. The Vandals would retain the option of red-shirting him (having him sit out a season) in the fall of 2014, which would give him a possible 5 1/2 years in college.

While Hoiness is competitive enough to desire action prior to the 2015 season, he added that he wouldn’t mind waiting.

“I’m perfectly fine with that,” he said. “It would get me two full years of training and four years of playing. They’re hoping I can play there for four full years and I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to do that.”

Because of a change in NCAA rules, “gray-shirt” recruits cannot sign letters of intent until June. Before enrolling at Idaho, Hoiness plans to spend one quarter at Grays Harbor College.

He expects to receive a full-ride scholarship from the Vandals.

Despite the natural ties, Hoiness said Idaho did not actively recruit him until Petrino was hired.

He said he seriously considered the University of Washington, which would have designated him as a “preferred walk-on” — a recruited player without a scholarship. But Husky running backs coach Joel Thomas was hired by Arkansas in late December.

“It kind of turned me off because he was one of the reasons that I wanted to go there,” Hoiness related.

Eastern Washington University, which has boasted a highly successful football program in recent years, and Humboldt State University in California, where Hoquiam High grad Rob Smith is the head coach, were also in the running before Hoiness chose Idaho.

Although some schools mentioned the possibility of shifting to safety in college, Hoiness said he prefers to remain at running back. The Vandals, he said, recruited him for that purpose.

The speedy, shifty Hoiness rushed for 2,186 yards — averaging 13 yards per carry — and scored 30 touchdowns in earning Evergreen 1A League Most Valuable Player and all-state recognition last fall.

At 178 pounds, Hoiness is considered small for a major college running back. He said he hopes to eventually bulk up to 200 pounds and plans to soon begin weight training under the direction of Timber Gym owner-operator Don Bell.

Hoiness, who does not participate in winter sports, will be returning to the Hoquiam High track team during the spring. He was the top sprinter on the Grizzly team that won the state 1A team title last May.

He said the combination of his youth (he won’t turn 18 until mid-May) and speed helped attract Idaho recruiters.

“They’re excited because they really recruited me for my speed and what they saw on the track,” Hoiness said.