Thanks to untimely nasty weather and the power of social media, Kalen Ballage didn’t get to control the moment the way he imagined.
On a normal Wednesday, the multi-talented Falcon athlete would have finally announced to the world, under the public eye of National Signing Day, his much-anticipated answer on where he could play college football.
Then a school closure delayed that moment, intensified by Ballage’s resolve to keep silent until the right time. Then, a tweet by his future head coach at Arizona State, Todd Graham, at 10:05 a.m. Thursday announced what many had long figured.
Still, when Ballage and four of his classmates – along with plenty of classmates and family members – crammed into the cozy confines of the Woodmen Hills Recreation Center, he still beamed and took in the moment.
“I can’t complain,” The Gazette’s 5A/4A football player of the year said. “It was big for me to be here with my friends. I’ve been with them since first, second, third grade. I’ve had an amazing experience with these guys.”
When frigid temperatures shuttered area schools again Thursday, it bumped the signing party until Friday at Falcon. Then, after the news spread that Ballage had indeed sent his national letter of intent to Arizona State, plans quickly came together to hold an off-campus event.
Ballage was flanked by teammates Cameron Regennitter (Colorado State-Pueblo) and Dylan Cutkomp (Colorado Mines), and Alyssa Stuck (golf, Chadron State) and Gaby Diaz (softball, Otero Junior College).
The subject of a national recruiting effort, Ballage, according to some websites, had received nearly 20 full scholarship offers. Heading into his senior season, he listed Boise State, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona State and Washington as his top candidates.
On Dec. 11, 2013, he gave a soft commitment to Arizona State, as reported by one of the school’s recruiting websites, a report he confirmed to The Gazette later in the month when he admitted to still “leaning” toward the Pac-12 school located in Tempe, Ariz.
While he also made visits to Nebraska, UCLA and Washington, Ballage chose his words wisely heading into National Signing Day. His athletic director, Randy Hinson, aligned Ballage with Arizona State in his signing roundup he sent to The Gazette earlier this week.
But thing got interesting on Wednesday. While Falcon and area schools had a snow day, the rest of the country held signings, and social media exploded over speculation on where Ballage would sign, and what he was doing with his day off.
He was allegedly spotted on campus at Colorado, and his bio and mugshot briefly appeared with other Buffs’ verbal commits on the school’s official website, sparking discussion that Ballage would stay in state.
Ballage, donning a gray Arizona State fitted cap, black polo shirt to go with recently purchased maroon denim jeans, laughed off the reports.
“I was shocked,” Ballage said. “I read the paper this morning, and said they saw me at CU. I asked my mom ‘Was I at CU on Wednesday?’ She said no.”
Ballage said he chose Arizona State not only for his potential on the football field. With or without an extra day, he ultimately saw himself being a Sun Devil.
“I just wanted to make sure I was making the right decision,” said Ballage, who placed UCLA second and Colorado and Washington in a third-place tie. “With what Arizona State does with its running backs, that made the decision a little easier for me. With that extra day of thinking, I kept coming back to Arizona State. I’ll miss having four seasons down there, but that’s where my heart is.”