By Kurt Johnson
Editor’s Note – The TOSH Top 30 is our countdown of the top 30 stories from the 2015-16 school sports year, beginning with No. 30 and counting down, one story a day, to No. 1. The 2015-2016 high school sports year was filled with big performances, both team and individual. The act of narrowing down our initial list of top stories for our TOSH Top 30 stories of the year to just 30 was a difficult task. We asked people all over the state for input into our final list and beginning June 22, we are counting them down in reverse, from story No. 30 to story No. 1. Hopefully your favorite story of the past school year made our list.
No. 12 in our TOSH Top 30 stories of the year takes a look at high-profile seniors who chose big-time out-of-state opportunities for playing at the next level. Simi Fehoko (Brighton football), Frank Jackson (Lone Peak basketball) and Payton Henry (Pleasant Grove baseball) are off to new adventures in new places.
#12 – Stars take on next level in new places
With each passing year, recruiters from all over the country get better and better at finding Utah’s elite athletes. The 2015-2016 school year was filled with news of high-profile signings with top in-state programs and also news of others who will be leaving the state.
A year ago, USC invaded the state and claimed two of the state’s elite linebackers, while Ohio State, Michigan State, Oregon State and others also had success with the state’s top football players.
Utah picked up elite in-state football players including, among others, Leki Fotu and Maxs Tupai and Bingham basketball star Yoeli Childs, an ESPN Top 50 talent, chose to play at BYU. Those examples and others show that in-state schools are also reaping the results of a higher level of talent developing in Utah.
The continuing trend of Utah high school athletes finding success in big-time places outside the state, however, is our No. 12 story of this high school sports year. To highlight the story, we focus on the stories of three of those student-athletes – the players who “Mr. (enter sport here)” designation from The Deseret News this year.
Mr. Football 2015 was Brighton’s Simi Fehoko, who was heavily recruited by Utah and BYU, chose instead to pursue his football future at Stanford saying that he was making a choice “for the next 40 years.” Before he joins the Cardinal, Fehoko will serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Korea Seoul South Mission.
The 6-foot-5 receiver first became a star for the Bengals as a defensive back, a position at which he started for three years at Brighton. Fehoko had 12 career interceptions, but his greatest value showed when he became a dominant receiver on the offensive side during his final two seasons with the Bengals.
Despite a revolving door at quarterback due to injury after injury, Brighton had a major constant on offense in Fehoko who could go up and get anything. Over his two years as a receiver, he caught 139 balls for 3,568 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Before his sophomore season, when he was transferring from Lehi to Lone Peak, Frank Jackson committed to play collegiate basketball at BYU. By the time he was 2016 Mr. Basketball, the 6-4 superstar had blown up on a national level that led him to eventually sign instead to play at Duke.
Jackson scored 28 points per game for the Knights this season, but in the summer that preceded his senior campaign, he was all over the world showcasing his elite-level talent that allowed him to rise into the national Top 10 on recruiting lists. Now he will have the chance to showcase his skills with a national championship level program.
On the diamond, Pleasant Grove’s Payton Henry finished off one of the most highly decorated baseball careers the state has seen. Mr. Baseball 2016 had signed to play college baseball at BYU, but that all changed with the Major League Baseball draft in June.
Henry was the Class 5A MVP in 2015 after batting .527 with nine home runs and 46 RBI during the Vikings state championship season his junior year. He followed that up with .519 with seven home runs and 31 RBI this season. While he is a top-flight defensive catcher, he was also an elite closer with Pleasant Grove, with a 90-plus MPH fastball.
Henry’s move to the next level will bypass college and take him directly to the minor-league system of the Milwaukee Brewers, who drafted him in the sixth round and signed him to a contract that included a reported $550,000 signing bonus and a guarantee of four years paid college tuition to be used at some point along the way. Henry reported to rookie league immediately and has already begun his journey.
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