National Signing Day is a huge moment for thousands of high school athletes every year. For most, choosing a school is the biggest decision they’ve made so far in their lives. We decided to put ourselves in their shoes, asking “If you were a five-star football recruit, where would you go? And how would you announce it?” Here’s what TGS had to say.
Back in my prime time as a high school student, all I had to show for myself as an athlete was as a subpar track star. My short little legs only ran varsity TWICE in my two year athletic career. But, this is hypothetical so free reign, baby. I want to start with how anybody who knows me knows that I have this weird thing where I have always wanted to know what it is like to be tackled.
I’ve been watching football for years and I don’t know why, but watching these guys get taken out is so fascinating to me. Just because you watch them bounce back and they’re fine, back at it. Obviously there’s pain behind the scenes I don’t see, but I’m fascinated by this toughness (I get it, they’re fully padded).
MOVING ON, as a defensive tackle and the top recruit in the state, I want ya’ll to know that I will be announcing my commitment just very straightforward. I don’t like the fake-outs and all that stuff because that is just the defensive tackle I am. It was a very hard choice but ultimately I’m going to show up to sign my life away to Michigan.
WHY? I forced myself to not be biased and pick Iowa State because we all know the admiration and respect I have for Jon Heacock. The culture of Michigan football just won me over. Who wouldn’t want to go to the same college that has 31 alumni in the NFL, not to mention the GOAT Tom Brady (I think I counted that right, ya’ll can correct me if I am wrong)?
Former Wolverine and retired NFL player John Long said it best in an interview when returning to Michigan after retiring: “I loved the pros and had a lot of great memories, but nothing compares to Michigan football culture.”
I want to go somewhere where the culture stays with you. You hold it close to your heart and it changes you. I think Michigan football would give me that. Plus, I get to spend my time being aggressive, taking guys out and causing havoc for offenses; sign me up!
Walks up to the table. It has five red Solo cups on it.
“I will be flipping the cup over that has the logo of the school I will be going to this fall.”
Takes a cup, slowly takes a drink of the “water,” lines it up on the edge of the table, and flips.
Cup falls to the floor unlanded.
Bends over, grabs the cups, pours more “water” into it, and lines it up to flip again.
Flips the cup. It doesn’t land again. Picks it up angrily and flips it again. Still no landing.
Picks up the cup, slams it on the table, grabs the mic from the stand.
A small I-State symbol is on the bottom of the cup.
“I am going to Iowa State this fall. Let’s roll.”
The easy answer for me would be Iowa State since it’s my favorite team and I legitimately think the program has done a great job of appealing to big talent, but that’s probably because it’s close to the heart. It would be equally as easy to say “Whichever team pays me the most,” but the NCAA wants us to pretend that doesn’t happen.
So I’ll go with Wisconsin, for several reasons. First of all, Madison is a fantastic college town and the few times I’ve been to Wisconsin, I’ve been blown away at how beautiful it can be. The school itself is actually really highly rated for a public university, and athletics are taken seriously by fans since the Badgers are the only FBS school in the state.
On a personal level, I’m very comfortable with the Midwest Nice kind of feeling and I feel like the appeal of coastal schools could be a distraction. Wisconsin plays in one of the best environments in college football and competes in a very winnable division in the Big Ten West, and I like that they aren’t a flashy school.
From a recruiting aspect, their classes are always solid, but a 5-star recruit would be the unmistakable gem of the class and get plenty of attention. In a program that pumps out NFL players and rarely relies on one guy to do everything, you can get a lot of national attention without having to carry the load yourself. At Wisconsin, you are almost always ranked and your best player is usually always a dark horse Heisman candidate, and the pressure is never near as much as at a football “blue blood.”
As for the announcement, I’d probably have 3 hats on the table: Alabama, Clemson, and Texas. Right before I go to grab a hat, the gymnasium starts BLASTING “Jump Around” and the place goes nuts. I flip the table over and reveal the “W” logo underneath and pull out a live badger from a cage, just offstage. I’ve already won the Heisman.
If I actually were a high school football recruit, I would probably be a 3-star receiving tight end because I’m 6’2” and lacking in foot speed. Growing up in Arkansas, I always dreamed of going to college on the west coast, so I’d narrow my focus on PAC-12 schools only.
It would come down to Oregon and Arizona State for me, and I would probably agonize over the decision right up until the moment I walked into my high school gym with all my high school classmates in attendance.
With my options being narrowed down to Oregon and Arizona State, I would probably pull something from the Arizona State basketball student section. I’d have a version of “The Curtain of Distraction” constructed and pop out sporting an Arizona State hat and jersey while throwing up double forks. Fork ’em, baby!
I know that in this hypothetical, I’m a five-star elite athlete with a surefire track to the NFL. But how many times do we see big-time recruits burn out in college and never make a dime off of their sport (other than that under-the-table money to play for Bill Self)? That’s why I’d place a major focus on academics. I want a marketable degree.
I’d also want to play somewhere close enough to home (eastern Iowa) so my family can catch a lot of my games, but with a little distance to let me stretch my wings as a new adult. And just to mix it up and try something new – since I spent my college years in Ames, Iowa – I’d want to be in, or close to, an exciting big metropolitan area.
There’s one answer that checks all of these boxes. I’m picking up the phone to call Coach Fitzgerald and committing to Northwestern. Not only will we be able to compete in the Big Ten West, I’ll have a Northwestern degree for the rest of my life and I’ll enjoy some of the best facilities in college football while I’m there. So what if half of our stadium will be full of visiting fans every Saturday?
As for the announcement, I’d play it up big. I’d make sure my people were leaking that it was a close call between Iowa, Illinois, and Northwestern. It was coming down to the wire. I’d set a time for my announcement, but shortly before that, I’d tweet an edit of myself in an Illinois jersey. I’d delete it shortly after without explanation, but the recruiting world would be blowing up about it.
When I sat at the table with those three hats in front of me, I’d have my mom on one side and my dad on the other. I’d pick up the Iowa hat and as it hovered over my head, my dad would knock it out of my hands onto the floor. Then I’d pick up the Illinois hat and do the same thing, but this time I’d put it on – only for my mom to reach over and throw it on the ground. Then Prince’s “Purple Rain” hits the sound system (doubling as a troll of another division foe in Minnesota), the room gets bathed in purple light, and I take off my button-down to reveal a Northwestern shirt as I put the final Wildcat hat on for good. Welcome to Evanston!
Full disclosure: I would 100% commit to Iowa State as my first choice. I grew up ten minutes from campus and have been a fan all my life. Getting to play for my school would have been a dream come true if I would have been talented enough to do so.
Since that is too boring of an answer, my next choice would likely be anywhere that folks have never heard of or seen snow. Arizona State, Miami, or USC would be at the top of my list. Growing up in the Midwest where you only get nice weather seven months out of the year (if you are lucky), a place like that in the south would be a magnificent change. Obviously, I would want a program that gives me the best chance to put me in professional ranks as soon as possible. Might as well get a nice tan while I’m doing it.
As far as the reveal of where I’m going to school, I think a good old fashion hat choice off a table would suit me just fine. I would go with a psyche out of an Arizona hat first before putting on the Arizona State hat. Team Trash Talk all day.
Winter blows. So i want to go somewhere warm or warmer than Iowa. A school in Florida would be tempting, as would USC or UCLA.
I’d probably go to Oregon. The Pacific Northwest is gorgeous and it’s a great program.
I would probably be choosing my high school position of offensive line. My choice would be Notre Dame.
This decision is partly due to the fact that during my time of “actual” college, Notre Dame had a pretty good offensive line coach in Henry Heinsted, who has produced a ton of NFL talent during his days at the collegiate level. I would view Notre Dame as my best chance to get to the next level at that position.
I would make that fact known, then put both a Notre Dame and Iowa hat side by side. I’d toss the Iowa hat to trigger the Iowa NFL junkies. Then I would go on to a long and prosperous college and NFL career.