Few college programs knew of Charles Baldwin when he was playing high school ball in Windsor, Connecticut a few years ago. One major power eventually offered, but it was too late.
"Coming out of high school, Florida State had offered me pretty late in the recruiting process," he said. "It was the year after they won the national championship and I thought, 'this football thing could work for me.' So I started working hard my junior year and my coaches let me know it could get me anywhere.
"When I found out I had to go to JUCO, to get my academics right, I thought going somewhere big was a high possibility."
The vision was realized on Wednesday morning as Baldwin sent in the paperwork to officially become the Alabama Crimson Tide's first class of 2016 signee.
"It felt real good, I didn't have a signing day in high school," he said. "Now I know all the hard work paid off and I was able to sign today to a big-time university. So I feel real good."
Next up was a conversation between the new Scout JUCO 100 five-star out of ASA College and his soon-to-be position coach, Mario Cristobal.
"He was just real excited, he's excited to finalize it and put it to paper," Baldwin said. "He was so fired up, saying they got my papers when they were at an offensive staff meeting, that I didn't even do much talking. I just told him I was looking forward to getting there and getting right to work."
The NJCAA All-American selection, who played more left tackle than right tackle this season, will take his final exams at ASA shortly after the new year. By the end of January's first week he'll be trekking to Tuscaloosa to move in.
Several late phone calls and campaigns from other schools were fielded before all was said and done, however.
"A couple schools had been talking to me late, Oklahoma definitely did, they were probably after me the hardest," Baldwin said. "I had Arkansas, Ole Miss and others. I just told them I was committed to 'Bama and had been for a while. 'That's where my heart is. It best fits me so that's where I'll be going.'"
Relieved to be done with the recruiting process, only a few weeks remain in between inking crimson and enrolling. After that point Baldwin's focus shifts to doing just what he did after high school.
"My goals there are to come in, work hard and do what I'm told, learn the playbook and hopefully everything just falls in line from there," he said.
Baldwin is the No. 3 overall junior college football prospect in the cycle.