It happened when Terry Ayeni first laid his eyes on the Bergstrom Football Complex. It happened when he pulled up his film reel with assistant coach Shane Burnham, who broke down in detail Ayeni's strengths, weaknesses and his future. It happened when he was chilling with E.J. Bibbs and Aaron Wimberly, former JUCO players who had immediate success at Iowa State.
All weekend long on his official visit in Ames, little "a-ha" moments slapped Ayeni right across the face, and by the end of it, the three-star defensive lineman knew he didn't need to visit anywhere else.
"It wasn't difficult because I envisioned myself playing there when I went on the visit," Ayeni said. "Seeing the facilities and the strength and conditioning program — which is really important to — and talking to Paul Rhoads, he gave me the assurance he'd help me turn into the person I want to be. I was ready to make a choice."
Ayeni picked up an Iowa State offer a few days before Christmas, the Cyclones joining West Virginia and Northern Illinois. The New Mexico Military Institute product visited Northern Illinois on Jan. 17 and also declared West Virginia out of the race, replaced by USF, which he was to visit next weekend.
But now, it's game over.
"I've had Mississippi State and other teams hit me up this week trying to get a visit but it came down to those three schools," Ayeni said. "I was really impressed with the facilities and coaching staff. They made me feel at home and let me know from a football aspect what I needed to do and that I'll have the opportunity to be successful at the next level."
This is the third JUCO defensive end Iowa State has added in the 2014 class, with Gabe Luna already signed and enrolled. Unlike Luna and commit Dale Pierson, Ayeni has the ability to slide from end to defensive tackle, but there's opportunity all along the defensive line.
We hunkered down and watched a lot of film and [Shane Burnham] let me know what I need to do to get better," Ayeni said. "They can see me rushing the passer as a three-technique and also at defensive end. We touched base on that."
Iowa State doesn't have any interior defensive linemen in its class yet and if once it gets all its players on campus and decides it needs Ayeni inside, he'll work to add weight.
"I'm actually at 265 pounds now and I think I'd have to put on another 20 or 30 pounds," Ayeni said.
If it's to remain at end, the Cyclones are getting a strong, yet quick, player who notched seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss last season.
The Cyclones' recruiting staff smartly paired Ayeni up with tight end E.J. Bibbs, a former Arizona Western JUCO product.
"We had a rivalry going on because he played at Arizona Western and we beat them in a bowl game this year," Ayeni said. "It was good times with him, he showed me around and let me know how it all works. I also got to chill with Aaron Wimberly a little bit. Seeing those guys was cool."
The class isn't quite finished, but so far ISU has seven JUCOs, no doubt a result of the successes of Bibbs, Wimberly and Rodney Coe in 2013; each of the three JUCO transfers found themselves in a big role by the end of the season.
"That's very, very, very encouraging," Ayeni said.
Ayeni struck up a relationship with running backs coach Louis Ayeni. There's no evidence the two are directly related, but says Terry, "there's a relationship there somewhere."
"Coach Ayeni had a big impact on me," Terry Ayeni said. "His background and experience helped me make my decision."
After flying totally under the radar at Central Technical School in Toronto, Ontario, Ayeni says he's blessed to receive the recruiting attention he did and pleased with his final decision. He will sign in February, graduate in May and enroll at ISU in the summertime with three years to exhaust two seasons of eligibility.
"It was exciting, a nice process, getting all the coaches calling me and trying to get you to come play for them, especially coming out of high school with no offers," Ayeni said. "I'm excited and I can't wait to step on the field and start playing."