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Bellingham is set to increase its presence in college athletics this coming fall. Three student-athletes from Bellingham and Squalicum High School are preparing to join university teams next year, and more are expected to commit soon.

Joshua Tolle, Wide Receiver, Chapman University Commit

Josh Tolle, a wide receiver from Bellingham High School (BHS) boasting a 3.85 GPA, will further his academic and athletic journey at Chapman University in Orange, California.

“I would do it all over again if I could,” Tolle says of his senior season at BHS. “My football season was more than stats; football impacted and changed my future.”

During his senior year, Tolle considered offers from the University of Montana Northern, the University of Puget Sound, and the University of Redlands. Ultimately, he chose Chapman University for its scenic Southern California campus and its potential impact on the football field.

“I’ve coached Josh since he was in 1st grade. His growth throughout high school has been tremendous,” says BHS High School Football Coach, Adam Leonard. “This past season, he set multiple receiving records. His football IQ and physical abilities will translate well to the collegiate level.”

Josh Tolle with his brother, Cody, after a BHS game at Civic Stadium in Bellingham. Photo courtesy Adam Leonard

Josh Leonard, Quarterback, University of Puget Sound Commit

After graduating from BHS with a 3.4 GPA, Josh Leonard will continue his football career this fall at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Leonard had offers from California Lutheran University, Willamette University, University of Redlands, University of LaVerne, University of Montana Western, University of Montana Northern, Clarke University, McPherson College, and Culver-Stockton College.

Leonard selected the University of Puget Sound for its academic prestige, picturesque campus, and robust football program and coaching staff.

“Besides his physical attributes, Josh has an outstanding football IQ, especially at the QB position,” Coach Leonard says. After transferring from Squalicum High School, Josh broke 10 Bellingham High School passing records this past season.

Josh Leonard also had the unique experience of playing football at BHS for his father and coach, Adam, who took over as the Bayhawks’ head coach in 2022.

“I believe Josh has the complete package to compete at a high level in college,” says Coach Leonard.

“I enjoyed playing at Bellingham High School,” says Josh, “and I’m excited to take the next step by playing college football at the University of Puget Sound.”

The UPS coaching staff was impressed with Leonard’s arm strength and accuracy, and hope he can add a new dimension to the offense.

Josh Leonard gets instructions from his father and coach, Adam, during a BHS game. Photo courtesy Adam Leonard

Colby Lewis, Squalicum High School, Offensive Line, University of Puget Sound Commit

Squalicum High School graduate Colby Lewis will join Leonard at UPS. He was named to the 2024 First Team All-Conference, the 2024 Northwest Athletics Conference Sportsmanship Award Winner, and the 2022 Second Team All-Conference.

“There were a few things that led me to choose UPS,” Lewis says. “I loved the high level of education and the opportunities I would have after attending the school. The next was the opportunities in football. I have a strong chance to compete for a starting position next year.”

Longtime friends, Lewis and Leonard will be roommates at UPS.

A versatile player in high school on both sides of the ball, UPS expects Lewis to compete for all five positions on the offensive .ine.

“I’m looking forward to competing,” he says. “I want to challenge myself and my teammates to get better. I want to help change the program’s direction.”

While at SQHS, Lewis drew acclaim and admiration from his teammates and coaches.

“Colby Lewis is one of my favorite players on and off the field,” says Coach Brian Young, Lewis’ former coach at Squalicum before he went on to coach at Sehome High School. “Tough-as-nails competitor on the field, great energy for life off the field. I believe a player either helps or hurts your program. Colby is definitely in the ‘helps your program’ category.”

Colby Lewis playing Squalicum High School last season. Photo courtesy Colby Lewis

 Additional College Prospects

Several prospects in Bellingham have yet to finalize their commitments. Sehome High Schools’ Andre Watson and Coleby Chambers are among those who are anticipated to play college ball, as well.

The Future of Football in Whatcom County

This latest group of graduates and student-athletes committed to playing at the collegiate level represents a new generation of Bellingham football players, continuing to represent the city in college athletics. Local high school football programs hope the dedication of the 2024 class inspires future generations to pursue their dreams of playing at higher levels.

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