When Monroe wide receiver Efton Chism III stepped onto the Eastern Washington University campus, he had one thought — “Yep, this is it.”
The Bearcats’ senior knew he found the place to continue his education and hone his craft on the gridiron.
The class of 2020 recruit made his verbal commitment this past Saturday to play at EWU.
“Eastern was the right fit for me because I felt like when I was there the school picked me and I knew it,” Chism said. “It felt like home.”
The Eagles have been a premier program at the Division I Football Championship Subdivison level, taking home at least a share of six of the past eight Big Sky Conference titles, making a playoff appearance in each of those seasons and winning a national title in 2010. But the winning culture isn’t what sold the program to Chism. It was the campus and coaches.
“Even if it was a bad team, it just felt right. There was something about it that just felt right,” he said. “It didn’t really bother me what their record is because I know that when we get there — when I get there and the rest of the recruits — we’re gonna keep getting better because that’s just how that coaching staff does it. They’re not gonna let you just be mediocre. That coaching staff is gonna push you to be the best team you guys can be.”
There’s also a family connection for Chism, whose uncle, Derek Strey, was a two-time first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection and played alongside EWU head coach Aaron Best.
The shifty 5-foot-11 receiver has been a terror for defenses and special-team units over the past two seasons, hauling in a combined 109 passes for 1,708 and 24 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior campaigns, returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns and even throwing four TD passes while filling in at quarterback for Monroe.
Chism’s efforts have earned him plenty of accolades on the field. He’s a two-time first-team All-Wesco 4A selection and was twice named to The Herald’s All-Area first team.
“As a receiver, he understands how to move defenders. There’s not a lot of guys in high school that realize how to move their defenders with their body language at his level,” Bearcats coach Michael Bumpus said. “He’s usually gonna make the play, man. There’s not many times where he’s gonna go up and not make the play. His hands are strong. His lower body is really strong, too. So his route running is really strong.
“I honestly believe he’s the best route runner in the state and one of the best route runners in the country. I say that wholeheartedly. I haven’t seen a kid in Washington run routes as crisp as he does.”
Chism’s route running, ability to find space in a defense and ball skills make him a seemingly perfect fit for EWU’s fast-paced spread offense that has produced a number of NFL receivers in recent years — most notably four-time All-American Cooper Kupp.
A three-star prospect according to 247Sports, Chism has excelled for Monroe with his unique blend of athleticism and football IQ, but perhaps what separates him most from others is his exemplary work ethic and determination to improve each day.
“I’m not surprised that he’s getting the attention he’s getting because he works his butt off first and foremost,” Bumpus said. “Sometimes I gotta tell him to take a few days off because he’s always going — always grinding.”
Having Bumpus, who played wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks after a standout career at Washington State University, as a coach has been instrumental to Chism’s development as well.
“He just knows so much about the game, not even just receiver. He knows everything,” Chism said. “So if I ask him a question, ‘Should I just sit in this hole or should I keep running?’ He knows it off the top of his head. It’s kind of cool just to talk to him about football because he just knows so much and he’s taken it all in. He’s just a great coach, and everything he does for me is fantastic and I love it.”
Chism, who also earned first-team all-conference honors in basketball as a junior, said he reached his goal by earning a scholarship to play football and continue his education.
Now he’s setting new goals.
“You can’t just stop there. You gotta keep setting your goals higher,” he said. “Now my goal is to just get to Eastern, do what I think I can do, and then perform at my highest level, and then eventually get a shot to make it to that next step.”