Two West Linn HS football stars commit to Oregon State as preferred walk-ons

Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 at 2:59 PM PST
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WEST LINN Ore. (KPTV) - Division I college football roster spots are precious commodities, and Wednesday’s signing day will further the lives and career of many kids around the country who have gone through as odd of a recruiting period as there ever was.

With current NCAA student-athletes retaining a year of eligibility after losing so much during the COVID-19 pandemic, those open doors are closed even more for preferred walk-ons but the West Linn Lions have a pair ready to roar at Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith’s front door in Corvallis.

“I know a lot of kids in Oregon this year are kind of getting screwed over and that was me for a while, so I am just lucky to have this opportunity,” said Gavin Haines, West Linn High School senior.

Every preferred walk-on status is earned and then you go earn some more.

“Having that preferred walk-on, I thought of it as a step-two to get to my goal of getting a scholarship,” senior Zach Holmes said.

Running back Haines and offensive left tackle Holmes will be calling Corvallis home come the summer.

“Oregon State going into my recruiting process was my dream landing spot,” Holmes said.

“I am not much of a Duck fan. I was more of a Beaver fan growing up,” said Haines.

But don’t mention that to West Linn coach Chris Miller.

“I know! He told me that, he’s like, ‘I am still going to be rooting for you, but I am always going to be rooting for my Ducks at the same time,’” Haines said.

Coach Miller is a proud Duck but more of an advocate now for his kids to rise up to an opportunity on the next level.

Jefferson High School head coach Houston Lillard, founder of Team Lillard 7-on-7, played a vital role in Haines’ game earning a Division I Pac-12 look.

“I know so many guys who he has helped earn scholarships or just earn different opportunities to go play at the next level and I couldn’t be more thankful for him,” Haines said. “He does it because he cares, and he wants to see us succeed. He is a great guy and I am very thankful to have him in my life.”

The gravy train to a scholarship dried up for many with no new game film or any showcase camps.

“Gavin is a beast. I think people are going to be surprised to see. I think he is going to be one of those guys that are going to pop up two years from now and people are going to go, ‘that kid’s a walk on?’ He’s fun to watch. You open up a hole for him and he’s gone,” Holmes said. “I think Oregon State fans are going to love him for a while.”

Hopefully Holmes and Haines get a taste of what they’ve been clamoring for since the fall - an abbreviated senior season no matter how that looks.

“Just seeing the news about the other states that are opening up, we’re starting to build-up hope that there is going to be a season, whether it is with the normal 14-game season or just the six-game season like it is planned, it doesn’t matter to us. We just want to go out there and play football,” said Holmes.

Playing it safe like the Lions and many other programs have done in pods during small gathering outdoor workouts for the past few months.

“We know we feel safe playing football. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be pushing for it as hard,” Holmes said. “We’ve been practicing for the last three months and I think we’ve had one case. We all tested, everyone tested negative so just knowing that we have been able to do it with our team successfully, I think that gives hope that we can go out and do it and be safe playing football.”

While Wednesday is National Signing Day, Haines and Holmes await the first padded practice of their senior seasons at West Linn on Feb. 9 - that is if clearance is granted from the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Kate Brown.

If you know of any high school senior athletes who deserve some praise, reach out to Nick Krupke at or on social media via his Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram.