The national signing period for high school football players opened on Wednesday, and one local high school gridiron standout put his commitment in writing.


Bobby Alvarez of Barstow made it official, signing a Letter of Intent to play football for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas next season. The signing ended a three-year process for the Aztec senior, who was courted by several schools over that period, and made his final decision to become a Rebel.


It was a process that was endured not only by Alvarez, but by his family and his coaches, as well. It was a group effort that set the young player along a path that will not only have him playing Division I ball for the next four years, but also gain him a college education.


Those who have helped Alvarez navigate the recruiting waters over the past few years were on hand to see him sign on Wednesday at Barstow High School. Not only has he been an Aztec for the past four years, he's also played travel ball, which was key in his getting noticed. Paul Knight, who serves as offensive line coach for Barstow, also helped Alvarez by taking him to camps to expose him to a wide range of coaches.


"In his junior year I started taking him to camps," he said. "Last year we went to Elite UCLA camp, which is invitation only, and got him some good exposure."


That was followed by a trip to UCLA. While the school was very interested in Alvarez, after the visit, his interest was waning.


"UCLA was serious about recruiting me, but after the trip, I just didn't get a feel for it," he said. "They were nice, but I didn't feel it would be a good choice for me."


Mike Esposito took over as Barstow's head football coach this season. He was barely on the job when he got caught up in the recruiting process.


"A lot of schools were interested in Bobby over the summer," he said. "UCLA and San Jose State were also interested, but on my third day here, UNLV called, and we started the process right away."


At that point, Alvarez began seriously looking at UNLV. He took a trip there, which was highly successful, according to Knight. While there were several potential recruits on hand, Alvarez was a standout.


"He performed better than anybody, he was far and away the best one there. They really liked him," Knight said. "He really stood out; they were very impressed with his technique, footwork and size. They talked to him afterward, and have kept up with him ever since."


At 6'7" and 300 pounds, Alvarez certainly cuts an imposing figure on the field. While that helps as a football player, it's just part of the entire package for the Barstow offensive lineman.


"For a guy his size, he has very good feet. He moves like a middleweight," said Esposito.


"He doesn't just rest on his size," added Knight.


Once the football matters were addressed, the question of academics arose. UNLV wanted to see his grades a bit higher, something on which Alvarez has spent the last few months.


"UNLV has been tracing his grades. They called me every week, sometimes more than once, for a grade check," said Esposito.


"They looked at the transcripts when the grades came out," said Alvarez. "It's been very stressful, a lot of pressure, but I've been able to maintain my grades where they want them."


"Bobby worked hard, he did a great job to seal the deal," said Esposito. "He really earned this."


Alvarez made an official visit to UNLV last month, spending three days with the coaching staff and players, and came away with a very favorable impression.


"I talked to the coaches, players and academic supervisors, and felt very comfortable there," said Alvarez. "The UNLV program reminds me of Barstow; they play smashmouth football, like we do. It seemed like a good place to spend the next few years."


Through the whole process, Alvarez has had the backing of his family. His parents, Esperanza and Roberto, and sisters Blanca and Elizabeth Susie, were on hand Wednesday to watch him officially sign with UNLV.


"We're very excited and proud of him," said Esperanza. "He loves football, and to get an education too, what else can you ask? We couldn't be more blessed."


The family also had nice things to say about everyone who helped Alvarez get to this point.


"I'd like to thank all the coaches and teachers who have been involved, motivating and supporting him," Esperanza said. "He's had their help, and the backing of his family. It's been great."


Alvarez plans to major in business.


"I'm very excited to get started," he said. "I expect a lot of work, but once I get used to it, I'll be okay."


As for Barstow High School, he said, "This school has done a lot for me. I'm sad to leave, but anxious to move on."


Esposito has no doubts that UNLV's decision to recruit Alvarez will pay off for them, too.


"They're getting a quality young man, on and off the field," he said. "I think they'll be very happy with him."


And Esperanza Alvarez had an invitation for everyone who has watched her son with the Aztecs for the past four years.


"The community has been great in supporting the football program," she said. "He won't be that far away, and we invite everyone to come out and watch him play for UNLV next year."