Columbia and Northern Colorado are the latest additions to the opportunity list of Punahou two-sport athlete Christopher Paige.
The two schools made offers to Paige on Wednesday, giving him six total. He also has football offers from Air Force, Army, Navy and Valparaiso.
Columbia, of the Ivy League, has instant appeal to Paige, who has a 3.6 grade-point average. Northern Colorado, of the Big Sky Conference, is coached by Ed McCaffrey, the former New York Giant and father of Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
“I’m really excited about both, honestly. Northern Colorado is building a really strong program out there. It would be really cool to play under Coach McCaffrey,” Paige said on Thursday morning. “Columbia, being an Ivy League school, they offer such high academics. I’m really interested in STEM, and they’re No. 1 in the country in so many science-related things, so that’s exciting, too.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound senior-to-be has trained consistently through the COVID-19 pandemic. He was a deep threat in Punahou’s explosive offense last year with 23 receptions for 347 yards and four touchdowns. This fall, if there is a season, he could be due for a breakout performance as Punahou, 10-2 last year, competes for the ILH football title. Senior-year production would be huge for Paige, but the six opportunities are invaluable.
“Academics always comes first, but it’s always great to play in a strong program. It’s a balance trying to find the right balance of education and competing at a high level. My parents (Traci and James) have been really supportive. They’re advocating more for the Ivy League,” Paige said. “If I went to the East Coast, yeah, it’s not too much of a factor for me. Someplace I can see being independent for four years and starting a life there.”
Columbia is where former Saint Louis two-sport athlete Isaac Silva landed recently. Paige’s contact with the Lions has been with wide receivers coach Jerry Taylor.
“He talked about the academics and what they offer, what I can offer to them. He feels like their offense fits my playing style. I got an email awhile ago from their recruiting list. Reach out to them if you’re interested. I reached them through NCSA,” Paige said. “I got a DM from Twitter to set up a Zoom meeting so I reached out. Yesterday around 8 o’clock, we went on Zoom, and he showed me some (video) cutups and practice. Then he said they have a spot for me on the team. Everything is merit-based and financially-based.”
Northern Colorado, in Greeley, has a certain cache. Receivers coach Max McCaffrey is Christian McCaffrey’s brother.
“It was super cool when I figured it out. He said they’re building a strong FCS program and they want me to be a part of it. He said their offensive scheme fits my play style,” Paige said. “They have a really strong business program. It’s always an option. I prefer STEM, but their business program is ranked pretty high.”
Paige’s opportunities aren’t limited to the gridiron. As a sophomore in spring of 2019, he placed fourth statewide in the 300- and 110-meter hurdles. The pandemic cancelled spring season, but the one ILH meet that was held did make a difference, enough to draw interest from Duke, Notre Dame and Stanford.
“I’ve been in contact with them. Track is different in the sense that if they offer you a spot, they make sure you’re going to the school. They can only give a half-scholarship, so you have to be pretty invested in their program for them to give you a spot,” Paige said. “They’re all amazing programs.”
Choosing between a full scholarship for football and a partial for track and field isn’t just about money.
“Whatever takes me to the school that best fits me,” he said. “It’s always nice to have options.”
Notre Dame, he noted, has been the most communicative track and field program, but there are no offers for his hurdling talent yet.
NCSA, a national recruiting service, has been integral in starting the process with track programs, as well as Columbia football. His contact with the service academies, Valparaiso and UNC have been outside of NCSA’s radar.
One big factor for Paige and other student-athletes is the rate of commitments going on this summer due to the coronavirus.
“For now, I’m going to try and keep my goal of committing after the season, but I might have to reassess what’s going on,” Paige said. “I feel pretty good. I think I’ve been getting a little more pressure lately. A lot of the schools have been contacting me and saying commitments are up 300 percent. A lot of the athletes are committing earlier and spots are being taken earlier than usual. It’s a business at the end of the day and they have to fill their spots. There’s some truth to that. On Twitter, you see everybody’s committing earlier. Last year, you saw more athletes commit after the season or during the season.”
There is, of course, the real possibility of further delays to the start of football season. Five states have already moved football to the winter or spring seasons. Unless the NCAA pushes back the date of football letter-of-intent signing day, normally in early February, the situation will become more problematic for prospects like Paige. All the football and track camps he had planned to attend this summer were wiped out.
“The best case would be if we get playing time in the fall, our film gets sent out. If it gets pushed back, especially for me, I needed to hit certain times to hit standards to get recruited. So we’re going off what I did in the first meet (last spring), but it wasn’t my peak. Track recruiting is you either have the time or you don’t,” he said. “We’re all in the same boat. The disadvantage for track is they might take transfers instead of recruiting freshmen. I think they might have.”
So, five days per week, he keeps grinding. Running and hurdling drills on the beaches of East Honolulu. Weight training. Speed and explosiveness work.
“I mix it up with my speed strength and quickness training. I try to mix up my drills. I get them from my personal trainer, Randy Morris,” Paige said. “So I’ve been doing my football workouts Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Personal training on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Lifting on Tuesdays and Thursdays at home. I have a squat rack and my dad spots me when he gets home from work.”
Top 3 shows/movies
1. Shark Tank. “I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank for some reason. I just watched the highlights on YouTube.’
2. Riverdale. “I just finished up Riverdale. They just put out a new season.”
3. Avatar: The Next Airbender. “I’ve been reliving my entire childhood. It’s funny, you watch stuff like Spongebob when you’re older and you realize the deeper context.”
Top 3 food/drinks
1. Zippy’s spaghetti and fried chicken. “I get extra chicken.”
2. Shoyu poke bowl from Foodland.
3. Raising Cane’s. “They just opened near my house, so I’ve going pretty frequently. The King Combo. Six chicken strips and two toasts and fries.”
Paige: “I had to patch up a couple of walls.”
Paige: “I’ve been playing a lot of video games (during the COVID-19 lockdown). Call of Duty: War Zone and Destiny. Sometimes I play with the football boys. Other times, my other friends. I think one day I played for at least 12 hours straight. Normally, it’s a three hours on an average day.”
Paige: “I guess I would go maybe 20 or 30 years in the future and see how everything’s going, if I’m taking the right path, what mistakes I can avoid.”