Division I football runs in the Freeborn and Kuehl families.
J.J. Freeborn played linebacker at Air Force and Kenny Kuehl remains one of the all-time leading tacklers in Boise State history. But their sons, both stars at Rocky Mountain High, reversed the family loyalties Wednesday, with nose tackle Keeghan Freeborn signing with Boise State and running back Carter Kuehl signing with Air Force on the first day of the early signing period.
“He’s very excited,” Carter Kuehl said of his dad. “He wants me to make my own path and not follow in his footsteps.”
The signings turn the three-year starters at Rocky from teammates into rivals. Instead of blocking for Kuehl, Freeborn will try to flatten him in a budding Mountain West rivalry. Air Force had won three in a row over Boise State until the Broncos scored a 44-19 victory this season.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Freeborn said. “It’s been a brother bond for a long time. I know I’m going to be looking forward to that game next year.”
Freeborn (6-foot-1, 305 pounds) chose Boise State over offers from Air Force, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana State and Weber State, all programs that recruited him as an offensive lineman. But the two-time, first-team All-Idaho offensive lineman opted to remain close to home to play defense.
Freeborn battled a high-ankle sprain this season and didn’t return to the lineup full time until Week 8. But with him back at guard, the Grizzlies ran for 324.4 yards per game the rest of the season on their way to the state semifinals.
Freeborn saw only a few snaps on the defensive line this year. But during his only defensive play in the state quarterfinals, he forced Eagle’s center to fumble the snap and then pounced on the loose ball to stop a potential game-winning drive.
“I’ve never really played it full time. I’ve always been mainly O-line,” Freeborn said. “But it’s kind of the same position in a way. You’ve got to know one position to play the other. I have coach (Steve) Caldwell now, and he’s going to be able to teach me.”
Kuehl (5-6, 180) chose Air Force over offers from Idaho and Cal Poly, making him the first Idaho running back to commit to an FBS program out of high school since Moscow’s Jayson Washington signed with Idaho in 2010.
“I have basically Idaho on my back,” Kuehl said. “I’ve got to represent it well and represent my family name. I’m just going to do the best that I can with that.”
The reigning state 100- and 200-meter track champ ran for a 5A-best 1,987 yards and 21 TDs as a junior to earn first-team All-Idaho honors. The Grizzlies’ dual spread and option offenses limited his carries this season and he finished with 1,079 yards, 7.7 yards per carry and nine TDs as a senior.
As an Air Force recruit, Kuehl signed a nonbinding certificate of intent Wednesday instead of a traditional National Letter of Intent. He won’t officially become a Falcon until he completes the appointment process to the military academy, where he said he wants to become a pilot.
“It’s the right fit for me,” Kuehl said. “It gives me a great direction in life. I can serve my country and I’m just excited for all the opportunities I have.”
Idaho’s 2018 recruiting class
Eight Idaho high school seniors signed with Division I programs on Wednesday, the first day of the December three-day signing period. There is another signing day Feb. 7.