Colston Loveland considers himself a pretty boring person.
The Gooding High School tight end stands nearly 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, and is one of the most highly rated prospects to come out of the state. The University of Michigan commit is a four-star recruit, according to 247Sports.com, and is the 13th-rated tight end in the nation for a team ranked No. 2 in the state in the Class 3A ranks.
And on Thursday, the Senators beat their third consecutive 4A opponent, a sign – like Loveland – they can play with the big-boy schools.
“It’s nice getting Idaho, and especially Gooding. the exposure because college coaches are watching the film and they’re seeing other players that they can recruit as well,” Loveland said. “So putting this little 3,000-person town on the map is something that I’m grateful to be doing.”
Inspired to start playing football after tossing the ball around the backyard with his older brother, Cayden, Loveland not only played up in age in youth tackle leagues – he was an offensive lineman because he exceeded the size standard to play any of the skill positions.
But he desperately tried to be a running back. Weighing 116 pounds in fifth grade, he needed to lose one pound to meet the cutoff standard to play that position.
What did he do to lose a small amount of weight? He tried spitting while sucking on sweet-candy Jolly Ranchers.
“I’m not sure where he came up with that. Obviously, it wasn’t very effective,” said Rachel Faulkner, his mother who chuckled over the idea. “He’d be like, ‘I shouldn’t have had that mac and cheese.’ I would always tell him, ‘You’re 10. You’re fine. Don’t worry about your weight right now.'”
Gooding football coach Cam Andersen has known of Loveland – and the family – for a while. He played against Loveland’s father, Chad, in high school football at Murtaugh. And the teenager first played for Andersen in sixth grade in a one-month statewide spring tackle-football league the coach created.
“You try not to make big judgments at that age,” Andersen said. “But you just noticed he had an ability for the ball on defense and offense, and that’s pretty important.”
When Loveland came to the high school program a few years later, Andersen had to make another judgment call – playing a ninth grader on the varsity squad, which was something he typically did not do.
And Loveland did not – for two games.
“My JV coaches were like, ‘You’ve got to take him. We can’t do anything with him anymore,'” Andersen said. “I wanted him to develop the right way. But when I watched him on that field I could see, developmentally, he needs to be against bigger, stronger guys.”
Helping him make that transition was his brother. Cayden, who still holds several Gooding receiving records, and went on to play at Carroll College in Montana. The older sibling took the time to mentor Loveland before and after every practice and game.
“I’ll never forget that,” Loveland said. “Cayden is a big piece in my decision-making process. He’s still the first person I go to for advice.”
Loveland took the reins from Cayden as the go-to receiver the following season with school-record 91 catches (including single-game record of 19 against Caldwell) for 1,147 yards and 14 touchdowns, earning him all-state honors. He was on college recruiters’ radars from then on.
“They saw him catch the ball from Shane (Jennings) and there wasn’t one of them that didn’t say, ‘Well, let’s talk more about Shane, and we’ll be back for that guy,'” Andersen said.
Loveland received his first offer from Idaho State almost immediately after his sophomore season.
However, the floodgates really opened after Loveland attended a 7-on-7 camp in Seattle during the summer leading into his junior year. Brandon Huffman, the national recruiting editor for 247Sports.com, just so happened to be in attendance. Loveland was already a low three-star recruit based on his film, but Huffman immediately upgraded him that same day.
After Huffman wrote an article, Loveland had around 15 phone calls the next day. Half the Pacific-12 Conference, including UCLA, offered him in the coming months.
Last season, Loveland (all-state campaign of 69 catches, 816 yards, six TDs as a junior) became just the fifth four-star recruit in Idaho (by Huffman), joining Highland’s Tommy Togiai, who is now with the Cleveland Browns; Coeur d’Alene’s Colson Yankoff (UCLA), Highland’s Tristen Hoge (Notre Dame/BYU) and Eagle’s Tanner Mangum (BYU). He is also the first one to come outside the 5A classification.
“Yes, Leighton Vander Esch (Dallas Cowboys linebacker) became a dude in college (Boise State), but you haven’t seen a lot of big-time Idaho recruits that didn’t come from towns or programs that have historically had recruits,” Huffman said. “I really do look at it and put him closer to Tommy Togiai. I think he’s going to have that kind of impact.”
It’s why reigning national champion Alabama and 14 others such as Auburn and LSU all offered him as well.
Ultimately, Loveland went with Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan. He announced his commitment on Twitter on the Fourth of July. He will enroll early at Ann Arbor in January.
“Anything can happen and I expected to go play somewhere and I wouldn’t have cared where that was, but honestly, I didn’t really expect it to be at the winningest program in the nation,” Loveland said. “I mean when I was younger and turned on the TV to watch college football, Michigan was on there, and now I’ll be playing there. That’s kind of crazy. So I’m just truly humbled.”
But now, Loveland and the Senators – who has won nine of the past 11 Sawtooth Central Idaho Conference titles – have unfinished business to take care of first. They are in pursuit of their first state championship since 1985.
Loveland (16 catches, 256 yards, four TDs in three games) has been a high-impact player on both sides, especially on offense where he has played five different positions already (QB, RB, TE, and two WR positions).
“One of the reasons he committed so early is he wanted it to be about his team and the team goals that he’s had with these guys his whole life,” Andersen said. “That kid has every right to be the biggest jerk walking the hallways. We’ve got 390 kids in our high school and he’s getting called by the last two teams that won the national championship and all of his teammates still like him. He received the kindness award given by our school. Do you know how rare all of that is?”
Rare, but certainly not boring.
(Featured photo courtesy of Kelly Magee)