The Mustangs football program announced their 2017 recruiting class on Thursday evening at TD Stadium, introducing the next generation of Western players to staff, alumni and media.
In all, 34 players have committed to play at Western next year. Standing out from the list of recruits is the strong contingent of London natives, accounting for 18 of the incoming class.
"London football is one of the best in this country," said recruiting co-ordinator Chris Marcus. "We are not going to let the best kids leave."
The group features four players ranked in Canada Football Chat's top 100 high school players, and six who have played for Team Canada on the international stage.
Daniel Valente, a defensive back from Catholic Central in London, was the first player Marcus mentioned when asked about the most exciting players from this recruiting class.
Marcus complimented Valente's football IQ and character, and also pointed out the Mustangs' need for a strong group of prospects at defensive back, with much of the current starting lineup set to graduate soon.
"It was a big decision but it was an easy one," said Valente about coming to Western. "Growing up in London, playing for the Junior Mustangs, I'm pretty much set up to come here."
Also among the highlights in this class are defensive back Tommy Ngongo out of Windsor, a Second Team All-Canadian, and towering linebacker Myles Manalo, who captained Canada's under-19 national team.
"We feel this year, this class has great character," said Marcus. "A lot of these kids coming in are 90-average kids."
In picking the class of 2017, both Marcus and head coach Greg Marshall stressed the importance of character in incoming players.
Marcus has spent much of the past year on the road attending practices and talking to high school coaches to learn about these players both on and off the field.
According to Marcus, it's not typically difficult to convince players to commit to Western.
"Our tradition speaks for itself," he said. "When I look at Western, and you look at it as a university first and a football program second, it's easy to sell."
Marshall pointed out that these new players aren't likely to take the field for the Mustangs for a while, though. As graduating high school students, in many cases they're as much as six years younger than opposition players, and aren't quite ready for the physical demands of U Sports football.
"We wouldn't throw a freshman into a senior PhD academic class," said Marshall. "It's just going to take a year or two, and I think we're pretty honest with players when we recruit them. Don't expect to come in here and play as a freshman."
According to Marshall and Marcus, the recruiting class isn't fully complete. Both coaches indicated they still have their eye on three or four more players who could commit to Western for next season.
The full list of athletes recruited can be found here.