For Michael Van Beek, it wasn’t about the money.
The Arlington High School senior and first-team All-Wesco 3A North offensive and defensive lineman received scholarship offers NCAA Division II and NAIA schools. But when Washington State University came calling with a preferred walk-on offer, Van Beek couldn’t pass it up.
“It wasn’t all about the showtime,” Van Beek said. “Yeah, WSU is in the Pac-12, but it just felt like home.”
And Van Beek is planning on making Pullman his home for the next five years.
College’s national signing day is Wednesday, when the letter-of-intent signing period opens for football and soccer, and Van Beek is one of several local athletes who will be committing themselves to schools. In Van Beek’s case he’s been invited by the Cougars to walk on to the football team.
“I’m really excited for it, I’m ready for what’s to come,” Van Beek said.
Van Beek is holding a ceremony at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Britt Sports Cards in downtown Arlington to celebrate his commitment to WSU.
Van Beek, who measures 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds, was a major presence on Arlington’s team the past two seasons on both sides of the ball. In 2016 as a junior he was first-team All-Wesco 3A North as an offensive lineman and second-team as a defensive lineman. This year not only was he a first-teamer on both sides of the ball, he was named both Arlington’s Offensive Lineman of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year, and he was a first-team member of the Herald’s All-Area Offense.
The highlight moment of Van Beek’s senior year came in the Stilly Cup rivalry game against Stanwood, when he blocked a 19-yard field-goal attempt on the game’s final play to preserve the Eagles’ 28-27 victory. He helped lead Arlington to a 6-4 record and a district playoff berth.
“I felt like we had a pretty good season,” Van Beek said. “The team had its ups and downs. We shocked people early with the big win against Lake Stevens, then had downs when we lost to Ferndale and some things happened where we had to come together as a team.
“As for myself, I thought I had a pretty good senior year,” Van Beek added. “But I’m always going to think I could have achieved more because I’m always looking at how I can get better.”
Van Beek’s senior year was good enough to catch the attention of Washington State’s coaches. Van Beek wasn’t on the Cougars’ radar prior to this season, as he seemed destined to end up at an NCAA Division II school like Central Washington, or an NAIA school like Missouri Valley or Lindenwood. But he was invited for a gameday visit to Pullman in September and was immediately hooked.
“I was able to get the feel of things and I just felt at home at WSU,” said Van Beek, whose primary contact with the Cougars has been offensive quality control coach Price Ferguson. “The way the coaches treated me, they made it feel like it was my choice, that I should do whatever’s best for me.”
Van Beek said the Cougars plan to use him as a defensive lineman. He’s expected to redshirt during his first year on campus.
“They said they liked how I was able to play both ways,” Van Beek said. “They said that if I go there they see me as a defensive lineman, but that if I wanted to switch to offensive line I could.
“I prefer defensive line, but most people told me I was better on the offensive line,” Van Beek added. “Personally, I think I have more to learn at defensive line, so that drives me toward wanting to be on the defensive line.”
As for where Van Beek lines up on the defensive line, there’s two options. Van Beek played as an interior lineman when Arlington faced running teams like Oak Harbor and Ferndale, but spent more time on the end when the Eagles faced throwing teams like Lake Stevens.
“I’m kind of in a position where I could add 15 pounds and be the same weight as their nose guards, or I could lose 15 pounds and be the same size as their defensive ends,” Van Beek said.
“But no matter what position I play I’m going to play to the best of my capabilities.”