TRUCKEE - Zak Pettit walked a little bit taller Wednesday afternoon.
Sure, he was proud. But he had also just shed a giant weight off his shoulders.
The standout Truckee football player thoroughly mulled his options for two straight weeks - accept a full-ride athletic scholarship to play at Northern Arizona University, which had been courting him for months, or accept a full ride to UC Davis, which jumped into the running in recent weeks.
With signing day upon him, Pettit was forced to make a final decision.
The 6-foot-3, 242-pound defensive end chose to maintain his California residence.
"It really came down to this morning," said Pettit, who sported a grey UC Davis Football hoodie as about a dozen of his Truckee coaches and teammates joined him for a mini press conference in front of the school's trophy case. "I've been thinking about it so much the past two weeks. But in the end, I think it's the best decision for my future."
He'll be in good company, as Pettit's high school teammate and good friend, quarterback and linebacker Erik Holmer, is set to join him at the Division I school as a preferred walk-on.
"It's awesome. He's one of my best friends, and he's definitely helped me out a bunch," Pettit said.
Both players imprinted their legacy on the Wolverines' rich tradition.
Pettit was voted Division I-A Defensive Player of the Year after a dominant season in which he tallied 125 tackles, including 92 solo, and 18 sacks.
He also played a major role in Truckee's 34-10 state championship win over Moapa Valley, recording 15 tackles and three sacks to go along with his 95 yards receiving. The big tight end also flashed his breakaway speed during the game with an 80-yard catch and run to the end zone, while he finished the season with 522 receiving yards and was the Wolverines' main deep threat.
"He was a joy to coach. He's one of the better athletes we've had come through. He's got the full package," said Truckee defensive coordinator Josh Ivens. "He has the size, and when he broke away in the state championship game, I think people saw how fast he really is. I'm sure they're excited to get him at Davis. I know I would be."
Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer said he's always proud to see his players move on to the next level. But while he's coached plenty of college-caliber players during his 18-year tenure, not many Truckee products have gone on to play Division I ball. Shaffer and Ivens came up with a list of six, not counting Pettit and Holmer.
"Obviously we haven't had a whole lot of Division I athletes come out of Truckee, so to have a player like Zak have an opportunity at a great academic school that's close to home is phenomenal. We're proud of him, and we expect great things for him," Shaffer said, adding that he and his staff hope to attend a couple of Davis' games next season (the Aggies open the year at Nevada).
Holmer, who played through the pain of a dislocated thumb on his throwing hand for the whole first half of the season, came on strong late to help lead the Wolverines to their fourth consecutive state title. He was one of the key difference-makers in the state championship, as he finished with 258 yards on 16-of-25 passing, while accounting for five touchdowns.
He also played a mean linebacker, which he intends to play at Davis. Holmer said he was recruited by Davis' former coach, Bob Biggs, who retired after last season, but after making the two-hour trip off the hill for an official visit a couple of weeks ago, first-year head coach Ron Gould invited him to join the program.
"It's a great school - obviously a great education - and the football program is on its way up with the brand new coaches. I love them all, all the coaches and players, and since Zak is going, it's kind of icing on the cake," said Holmer, who was listed as 6-3 and 215 pounds his senior season. "I hope to play four years for them."
Shaffer has little doubt that Holmer will succeed.
"I think they're going to find that he's got a lot of variables, with where he can play and what he can do. I think he'll do extremely well," Shaffer said. "He has the size, strength and knowledge, obviously, and the physicality."
Pettit said he hopes to play, perhaps even start, his freshman year.
Gould could not be reached for comment.