Aaron Zwahlen split snaps as a sophomore and looked at every play as a job interview.
"It was intense, because every snap was an opportunity to show the coaches I wanted the job," said Downey's incoming senior quarterback. "I felt that way in the recruiting process, too, like I had to show I could play in college."
One person Zwahlen didn't need to impress was Hawaii coach Norm Chow, who was the first to offer a scholarship to the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder.
Zwahlen snatched the scholarship this week, giving Hawaii his verbal commitment.
Boise State, Idaho, BYU, Duke, Texas Tech, Northwestern, and Washington State also showed interest, too, but Hawaii and Idaho were the only ones to offer as of now.
"I expect to compete for the starting role as a freshman," said Zwahlen, who will take a two-year Mormon mission at some point. "If I'm not starting as a freshman, I'll likely redshirt then go on mission."
He would have four years of eligibility and would be 21 years old when he returned.
Zwahlen says he won't waver on Hawaii, but ESPN recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill says the rising QB might get more interest this season.
The right-handed pocket passer is in ESPN's top 300 recruits at No. 153 he wasn't even on the list until Luginbill reviewed him last week.
"How this young man has flown so far under the radar, regardless of a potential detour for a mission, is beyond us," Luginbill wrote Tuesday in his online update. "Zwahlen has as much pure arm talent as just about any player in this class and he is only going to get better and bigger."
Hawaii scored a coup, Luginbill said: Zwahlen would be the highest recruit it has landed since ESPN began its full recruiting coverage in 2006.
But can Hawaii hold him?
"Zwahlen is going to start attracting BCS attention, and if he does not, someone is not doing their homework," Luginbill added. "It is a long time between now and February."
Luginbill cited another Central Valley passer, Tyler Bray of Coalinga. He committed to San Diego State before his senior year, but his play attracted large colleges and he's now the starting QB at Tennessee.
Zwahlen hit 56 percent of his passes, for 2,924 yards and 29 TDs, with 10 picks. He had a five-weelk stretch where he threw 21 TDs and zero picks.
Downey's had more prolific passers Jason Lee was the state regular-season leader with 3,972 yards in 10 games in 2009 but not since Tony Graziani has it enjoyed a QB with Zwahlen's size and skill.
"I was happy to make my decision now. It lets me focus on my team this fall," he said.
Zwahlen, with a 3.8 GPA, was just another number on a jersey a year ago at this time.
"I wasn't a household name and it meant I went into quarterback camps without coaches having an opinion," said Zwahlen, whose low point in 2011 was a three-interception game in a playoff loss to Del Campo. "I was new to them. I'd rather be the guy fighting to climb a ladder, rather than the guy who's at the top of it."
Zwahlen said he was helped bys his family's background: Dad Lynn was a receiver for BYU when Chow was the coordinator, while Aaron's four brothers played ball at Davis.
"I'm the youngest of six, so I was always going to my dad's practices," Zwahlen said. "Being so into footb all at a young age, it's helped me develop."
Aaron Zwalen: Attracting Attention
Downey High's Aaron Zwahlen was as hot as any quarterback in the state during this five-week run last season, throwing 21 TDs without an interception while leading the Knights to five wins. Zwahlen also had wees where he struggled to find his receivers:
The high notes
Opponent Comp Att Per. Yds TD INT
Ceres, W 69-7 17 23 .739 374 7 0
Modesto Chr., W 58-50 30 48 .625 467 5 0
Gregori, W 70-14 12 17 .706 249 3 0
Modesto, W 25-21 13 27 .481 158 3 0
Enochs, W 35-33 13 24 . 542 260 3 0
Totals 85 139 .611 1,508 21 0
and the low notes
Turlock, L 12-7 23 43 .535 314 0 2
Davis, W 11-8 14 26 .538 130 0 2
Del Campo, L 34-12 14 38 .368 181 1 3
Totals 51 107 .477 625 1 7