Lane Cefalu narrowed his choices down to four small universities in Oregon.
This process began with East Union head coach Willie Herrera advising his senior defensive end/running back to list colleges that have football programs and his desired major.
Before venturing to Oregon to visit each campus, Cefalu had one last question for Herrera: How would he know which school is the one?
“I said, 'Bud, you're going to know the moment you step foot on campus,'” Herrera said. “You get a certain feeling at certain places.”
George Fox University in Newberg was that certain place for Cefalu, who announced his commitment to the NCAA Division III school on Wednesday. He also considered Pacific University, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon .
“The whole town of Newberg is amazing,” Cefalu said. “By the end of the visit it just felt like home.”
The coaching staff, headed by Chris Casey, even reminds Cefalu of his coaches at East Union. All the boxes were checked on his tour of the campus and the city.
“All the coaches were super friendly and professional and welcomed me with opened arms,” Cefalu said. “I got to go to one of their practices and all the players came up to me, shook my hand and knew my name. … I felt (GFU) would benefit me as a football player and as a man.”
The Bruins compete in the Northwest Conference and represent the largest of the nine small private schools. The George Fox football program was resurrected in 2014 after a 45-year hiatus. Casey has been head coach since the restart, going 28-30 but quickly elevating the team to respectability. GFU boasted winning records three straight years until finishing 5-5 in 2019.
The 5-foot-7, 206-pound Cefalu was recruited as an outside linebacker, where GFU will make use of his speed as an edge rusher and in pass coverage.
“I'll be a chess piece on the defensive side,” he said.
Cefalu was named to the All-Valley Oak League second team last year, leading the Lancers with nine tackles for losses and 6.5 sacks.
“George Fox University is getting a super tough kid mentally and physically,” Herrera said. “He is a fantastic young man who doesn't think of himself first. He's the epitome of what we want our Lancer athletes to be. They're going to absolutely love him.”
Cefalu has been hard at work preparing for a senior season that may not happen, as coronavirus concerns continue to cast doubt on a football season that would have to take place in the spring.
The postponement has actually been a blessing for Cefalu, who had surgery to repair a torn labrum in August. He sustained the injury during the 2019 season, but the pain in his shoulder became unbearable during conditioning workouts over the summer.
“I feel like I'm in a better place than I was before,” he said. “I just kept pushing, knowing there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that I was either preparing for my senior season or my freshman year in college. No matter what, there is something waiting for me so I just had to stay motivated.”
Now fully recovered, he is eager to tackle whatever lies ahead. Cefalu plans to major in business management. His dream job is to work as a front-office executive in the NFL.
“I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my chest,” he said of making his making his big commitment. “I can focus on the present and not so much on the future. I'm focused on high school and my team. I want to give everything I have for them. Hopefully we have a season, because we want to win that VOL championship and go to the playoffs.”