On the drive home from Weber State on Tuesday, Columbia senior Brandon Kipper decided he’d seen enough.
The 6-7, 265-pound offensive linemen couldn’t get Hawaii out of his mind, so he canceled his remaining recruiting visits and committed to a full-ride scholarship from the Rainbow Warriors.
“I knew where I wanted to be,” Kipper said. “I knew the school that was right for me, and I decided right then and there.”
Kipper, a four-year starter and the student body president at Columbia, chose Hawaii ahead of Wednesday’s National Signing Day over offers Army, UTEP, Montana, Montana State, Weber State and Portland State. He said a visit to Honolulu last weekend proved Hawaii was the right fit for him.
“I wanted somewhere with a lot more cultural diversity than we have in Idaho,” Kipper said. “And when I went down to Hawaii this past weekend, that’s all I saw. That was really important to me, something I really want to see over the next four, five years of my life.”
Rated a three-star prospect by Scout.com, Kipper was voted to the 5A All-Idaho second team this fall. The captain and two-way starter — he also played defensive end — led the Wildcats to a 2-7 season and helped Columbia snap a 25-game losing streak this fall.
But Hawaii didn’t have to merely contend with other Division I football programs. Kipper, the reigning 5A state champion wrestler, drew the attention of national wrestling programs after he won the heavyweight title at the elite Reno Tournament of Champions in December.
George Mason extended a scholarship offer, and Kipper also received late interest from Oklahoma State, the No. 1-ranked wrestling program in the country.
“My passion is with football. My heart has always been with football,” Kipper said. “Wrestling has just kind of been something to get me in shape. I had to consider it because big schools like Oklahoma State and Wyoming talked to me. But ultimately, I don’t want to spend the next four years of my life wrestling. I might as well do something I love.”
Hawaii graduated two seniors starters from its offensive line, including its right tackle. Kipper said Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich told him he’s looking for an offensive tackle in this year’s recruiting class to compete for a starting position.
“If I perform well, the opportunity to start will be there,” Kipper said. “He didn’t really show any indication of redshirting. He said he’s looking for a tackle this year. He needs somebody ready to step in, to fill in. Hopefully, that can be me.”
Treasure Valley recruits committed to Division I programs
Brandon Kipper, OL, Columbia, Hawaii
Bronson King, QB, Bishop Kelly, Stetson
Mitchel Maxfield, LB, Emmett, Weber State
Zach Redd, OL, Rocky Mountain, Montana State
Tucker Rovig, QB, Mountain View, Montana State
Ryan Swanson, DB, Eagle, Weber State
George Tarlas, LB, Borah, Weber State
Jake Wilkerson, OL, Rocky Mountain, Idaho State
Connor Wood, OL, Rocky Mountain, Montana State