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UND football lands two California preps with state championship backgrounds

Caleb Nelson, left, and Chandon Pierre committed to the University of North Dakota after visits last weekend. Submitted photo

GRAND FORKS -- The latest stretch of freezing North Dakota weather didn’t scare off a couple of coveted University of North Dakota football prospects from a dominant high school program in California.

Folsom High School stars Caleb Nelson and Chandon Pierre committed to the Fighting Hawks after visits last weekend.

Nelson, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound cornerback and the brother of UND safety Lenny Nelson, held scholarship offers from Sacramento State, Eastern Washington, Howard and San Jose State.

Pierre, a 6-3, 255-pound defensive lineman, held offers from Eastern Washington, Montana State, Sacramento State, Idaho State and San Diego.

“I think it (came down to) knowing how big the culture is there,” Nelson said. “Being able to play with my brother is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me.”

Nelson had four interceptions and 14 pass breakups during his senior high school season.

Both players are considered three-star recruits by the recruiting rankings of 247sports.

“The obvious reason (for choosing UND) is the football program and feeling really comfortable with the coaches,” Pierre said. “I feel they’re recruiting the right guys and recruiting in the right direction.”

Pierre also has interest in aviation. During his visit last weekend, he was able to talk to students already enrolled in UND’s tradition-rich aviation program.

The high school teammates played for Folsom’s back-to-back state championship teams. Folsom was 14-1 in 2018 and is 127-10 in the last decade.

Both players are expected to make a push to play as true freshman.

Lenny Nelson is a front-runner for UND’s starting safety role in 2019. The junior college transfer’s first year on campus in 2018 was limited with injuries, but he managed to play a big role down the stretch. He had a forced fumble against Idaho and returned an interception for a touchdown against Portland State.

Lenny and Caleb’s father, Lenny III, played in the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League. He’s a graduate of Sacramento State.

Pierre, who the UND staff discovered while watching Caleb, had five sacks and 14 tackles in Folsom’s state championship victory. He led the state of Nevada in sacks as a sophomore (10.5 sacks) and junior (14.5) before transferring to Folsom, where he had to miss the first five games of the season due to transfer rules.

“They’re getting an explosive player and will come with his A game every day,” Nelson said. “He’s smart. He’s a great leader, and he’ll push you no matter what. I’ve only known him for about a year, but he and I have a close relationship.”

UND has also targeted another quarterback for the 2019 class. The Fighting Hawks had previously received a verbal commitment from Lincoln, Neb., prep Cedric Case, who backed out for an offer from FBS Texas State before the first signing period.

The Hawks’ next target was Wisconsin prep Logan Graetz, who eventually accepted a scholarship offer from North Dakota State.

UND’s latest target is Colorado prep Kevin Lukasiewicz, a 6-foot-6, 220-pound quarterback out of Centennial, Colo., who recently announced he received a scholarship from UND.

The second NCAA signing period begins next Wednesday, Feb. 6.