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Maricopa's Redfern Signs to Play Football at Ottawa

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MARICOPA — Baylen Redfern entered his senior season at Maricopa High School having not played much varsity football, riding the bench through his junior year. Now, he’s on his way to playing football in college. What changed, he isn’t really sure. All he knows is that he got tired of feeling left out, of not getting to show what he could do on the football field. So he put in the work to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.

“He’s a model of what can happen if you work hard in the offseason,” said Chris McDonald, who coached Redfern throughout the process before accepting the head coach position at Basha for next season. “He did make a huge jump, but that was all on him doing what he’s supposed to do and setting a good example.”

Redfern officially signed with Ottawa University in Surprise on Thursday, becoming the first Rams football player to join a school with an athletic scholarship. His teammate Zion Saole could be joining him, but he hasn’t yet made up his mind between Ottawa and Mesa Community College.

The offensive lineman doesn’t know if he will be playing tackle or guard at Ottawa yet, but he said he’s ready to step in wherever he’s asked. This will be the first year Ottawa will have a football program on its Arizona campus, meaning Redfern is going to be part of building something from scratch. The coaches told him they are going to be aggressive in that building, though, with ambitions of becoming an NCAA Division II program by the time he graduates. That was a big appeal for him.

“If this program does wind up being a Division II program, I can say that I was in that first class,” Redfern said. “I was there to start that school.” However, what appealed to him most about the school was the educational side. He is excited for the opportunity to attend college without having to pay for the whole bill, which takes considerable pressure off his parents. He plans to major in sport studies or engineering. “Their campus was so nice. And their classrooms, everything was perfect,” Redfern said. “And it’s a smaller school, which I think I prefer.”

McDonald said Ottawa is getting a player who is still growing, both physically and as a football player. Redfern just recently started coming out of his shell and has since become a more physical player, with a “little nasty streak” that has come with increased confidence. For a player that is still developing, McDonald is excited for Redfern to join a program that will be growing “at breakneck speed” along with him. It’s a new team, but McDonald is confident Ottawa will become a force rapidly. Redfern said he is grateful for all the support he has received from his Maricopa teammates, coaches, family and community to get him to beat the odds and be where he was Thursday: signing on for a bright future.

“My four years have been fantastic. They helped me the best they could to get me where I am today,” he said.


Pictures by Joey Chenoweth

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