PETALUMA — Dylan Korte awoke on the morning of May 4, 2016 and saw what was ahead of him as no different than May 3 or May 2. Or, for that matter, April 2 or 3. He would go to class as a junior at Casa Grande High School. Korte, of course, would stand out. He’s 6-foot-8. Of course Korte wouldn’t act like the big man on campus, which he literally was. Not his style.
May 4 offered no hint, much less a promise, that Korte’s life was about to suddenly and dramatically change by dinnertime. A good student, a great friend, Korte was the typical Casa student, on his way somewhere.
At 10:44 a.m. Casa football coach Trent Herzog’s cell phone rang. It was Alfred Pupunu, the former standout tight end for the San Diego Chargers, now the tight ends coach at the University of Idaho. He would be arriving on campus shortly. Herzog was expecting the call; he and Pupunu have a friendship that goes back almost 10 years.
“What you got for me?” Pupunu asked Herzog. It’s a question he asks Herzog every year he visits. As what will soon become spectacularly obvious, it’s a blind trust. In his eight years as Casa’s head coach, and another 17 years as an assistant, Herzog had 26 Gauchos advance to play college football. As well as being Casa’s coach, Herzog is a talent scout for a highly respected scouting service.
“We got a guy for you,” Herzog told Pupunu.
This is where the blind trust comes into play. Korte, an offensive tackle, had started just six games at that time for Casa. Didn’t play football before his freshman year at Casa. Didn’t start even one game his freshman and sophomore seasons. To say Korte was unfamiliar with football as a freshman would be the same as saying Korte was unfamiliar with what happens after he puts gas in his car — he knew it worked but how it worked, um, not exactly.
Korte was pulled out of class. In the golf cart driven by Casa assistant baseball coach Gordy Wirtz, Korte was puzzled. Didn’t think Wirtz was taking him for a hamburger.
“I still had no idea,” Korte said.
It was just a five-minute chat between Korte and Pupunu. Pupunu saw Korte’s frame, the 306 pounds dispersed nicely — no flopping fat, in other words. Seemed like a nice kid. Respectful. Intelligent. Korte went back to class. Pupunu looked back at Herzog for validation.
“He’s got a ton of upsides,” Herzog said.
Pupunu trusted Herzog. Pupunu phoned back to his head coach at Idaho, Paul Petrino. Herzog shortly will be sending you some highlight tape. The tape was sent and reviewed.
At 7:48 that night, Pupunu called Scott, Korte’s father, and offered his son a college scholarship to play football for the Vandals, a Division I school. It was a full ride.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what a full ride meant,” Korte said.
Korte’s ordinary day became a most extraordinary one, from being just another kid in class to one who will receive a free college education. Who never saw it coming. Whose football career wasn’t backloaded with performance videos, all-conference honors and hosannas from Nick Saban.