San Clemente tight end Cole Fotheringham might have big future

San Clemente senior tight end Cole Fotheringham is a free spirit and makes plays.

It was a cloudless, picture-perfect Saturday morning in San Clemente, so it came as no surprise that 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end Cole Fotheringham might be surfing.

"It's kind of peaceful and a way to get away," he said.

As Fotheringham drove up to campus in his 1970 Toyota Landcruiser with two surfboards fastened on the top and then stepped out of the car barefoot, the 17-year-old reinforced the notion of his "free spirit" personality.

"If I had my choice, I'd be barefoot," he said. "It's more comfortable."

With a 3.9 grade-point average, big feet (he wears size 13 shoes), large hands and lots of athletic ability (he dunks a basketball), Fotheringham has the chance to emerge as a top tight end prospect this fall. He's commited to Utah.

"Cole has just scratched the surface on what he can bring to the game," San Clemente Coach Jaime Ortiz said. "He has always cross trained playing quarterback and tight end, and this past season he solely focused on tight end."

It wasn't until the eighth game of the season against Laguna Hills that the Tritons discovered they might have something special.

Fotheringham caught 11 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns from USC quarterback recruit Sam Darnold. He followed up that game with seven catches against Trabuco Hills and five against Aliso Niguel. He finished with 50 receptions for 585 yards and eight touchdowns. It convinced him that playing tight end, not quarterback, was in his future.

Twenty-six years ago, in the fall of 1989, Fotheringham's father, Chad, went through a reverse predicament. He was the starting tight end at Newhall Hart and second-string quarterback, but an injury forced him to play quarterback. He did so well that quarterback became his position at Snow College and later Pacific.

"He actually likes tight end better than quarterback," Chad said. "Maybe he's the smarter of the two of us."

Chad had dreamed of earning a scholarship offer from Brigham Young that never came. But Cole picked up a scholarship offer from Brigham Young last winter just after his junior year.

The two used to attend a father-son basketball camp together at Brigham Young, and when it came time for a friendly game of pass and catch, the Fotheringhams stood out

"He can huck it 60 yards down field," Cole said.

When Cole needs someone to throw him a pass, dad is happy to comply. Cole has four younger brothers and a sister ages 2 to 13. "We have enough kids in my family to have a whole game," Cole said.

His focus has been on getting stronger in the weight room and faster on the field. He was a starter for the basketball team and doesn't mind going against the crowd, such as last January when he went surfing without a wet suit with water temperature in the 50s.

"Everybody thought I was crazy, but it was fun," he said as he sat on a bench barefoot.

Asked how he switches his personality when he gets onto the field, Fotheringham said, "It's just a mentality that you have to have when you go out on the field. The other teams aren't going to take it easy on you, so you have to show them who's boss."

Twitter: @LATSondheimer