By Angel Verdejo
The Cove Herald
Four years ago, Cody Elenz had only heard of football.
Coming from Germany, the military child and future all-state offensive lineman had never played.
"It was different," Elenz said. "But I adjusted fast and the coaches really helped me."
His quick learning - Elenz also moved from defensive line at the end of his sophomore year - culminated Wednesday on National Signing Day as the 6-foot-5, 290-pound Elenz signed a letter of intent to play football at the University of Idaho. He was one of five Bulldawgs to sign, bringing the current class to six after Trevor Valdez graduated early and is already attending classes at Baylor.
"It was stressful - it was necessary, but stressful," Elenz said of the recruiting process. "Enjoy it, but always keep your options open, that's what I would say."
Elenz had been linked to UTEP, originally committed to the Miners last spring before opening his recruitment back up. He kept his options open, visiting Idaho in December and making his decision to become a Vandal afterward.
The atmosphere fit his personality, Elenz said, while the city - Moscow, Idaho - had the intimacy he could relate to.
"It's a small-town feel," said Elenz. "Just more my style."
Cove head coach Jack Welch attributed much of the team's success this season to its leadership, lead by Elenz and Valdez. The Bulldawgs finished 9-2 and were second in District 12-5A, making the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
Elenz, Welch said, also has the physical tools.
"He has the intangibles for a lineman - what you look for," Welch said. "He has the size, but he also has the feet. There will be a lot of kids that have size without feet.
"He has size, strength and he's got quickness."
Elenz didn't allow a sack last season. He was a two-time, first-team all-district selection, earning the pick unanimously as a senior.
Elenz was named honorable mention all-state pick by the Texas Associated Press Sports Editors, as well as earning Daily Herald first-team all-area honors as a junior and senior.
Not bad for someone who didn't start playing football until the ninth grade.
"I just wanted to hit people," Elenz said.
Branch gets chance with Rams
Mark Branch wanted to quit - a number of times.
"About 250,000 times over the season," said the Copperas Cove linebacker who missed the entire season due to a head injury. "I didn't think I'd get here because of the accident."
Praying "five times a day," he stayed with the team. It worked out - despite not playing a single down, Branch signed with Angelo State on Wednesday to play football and run track.
Branch was "playing around" with friends over the summer and not watching where he was running when he hit a metal clothesline post.
"It cracked my sinus bones," he said, adding he received stitches and had surgery for the fracture.
Branch spent a week in the hospital and was told before the season he couldn't play.
"From there on, I just decided I'll be whatever my teammates need me to be," said Branch, who didn't miss a practice. "If that's encouragement, a little bit of punishment here or now and then - I'll just be there for them.
"So that's all I was - that voice in the back of their heads."
Randolph to run for Aggies, too
William Randolph is aiming for Donald Buckram, but not on the football field.
The Texas A&M signee wants to break the former Cove standout's record in the 100-meter dash this spring.
"I'm coming for that record," Randolph said of the 10.43-second mark. "I already broke the 200 record, so I plan on extending that record and breaking Buckram's record."
The running back scored 22 total touchdowns last season. In addition to football, Randolph will also run track at Texas A&M during the indoor season.
"After being there, especially after the Nebraska game, that really convinced me," Randolph said of the Aggie win in front of a Kyle Field record crowd.
Durant sticking with Mizzou
Brandon Durant didn't graduate high school early and enroll at Missouri for the spring semester.
But the talented linebacker will do the next closest thing.
"I can't wait - I'm actually leaving the day after graduation," said Durant, a first-team all-district and all-area selection. "So I'm ready to go and get out there."
Durant, who finished with 82 tackles last season, originally committed to UTEP in July, but changed his mind in October, two weeks after he visited Missouri and the Tigers offered.
"It was very stressful at first, but when I went down there for my visit, it really felt like home," he said.
Tuiasosopo to Tyler JC
Caleb Tuiasosopo wasn't going to miss his senior year, no matter how much he hurt.
"At some points, it was terrible," said the linebacker who signed with Tyler Junior College. "I'd be limping everywhere. I spent my Saturday morning in the ice baths."
An all-district first-team selection, Tuiasosopo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his junior year, only to re-injury the knee before Copperas Cove's 2010 opener.
But Tuiasosopo played though it.
"It was tough but I got my strength from God," he said.
"Plus encouragement from my family and also my teammates. They made the pain bearable enough to go through the season."
Contact Angel Verdejo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.
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