Jayhawk Realization

Before he picks a school, there exists a moment of realization that hits each recruit a little bit differently.

For some, it may come to a head slowly, as relationships are built with schools and their coaching staffs during the long months of the recruiting process.

Others have always known where they would play their college ball; the serendipitous collaboration of elite athletic ability and lifelong devotion to a specific school or team.

Still others experience it in the blink of an eye, from a place they may have never expected. Previously unknown environments, the campuses and stadiums of the collegiate football world, can leave recruits feeling as if they haven't found a pit stop for the next four years of their lives, but rather a new home.

When Kansas City (KS) Bishop Miege High School offensive tackle Phil Ford's moment hit him, he wasn't where one might expect. On a return visit to the University of Kansas with his mother, Michelle Walker, as well as the talented Blue Springs (MO) trio of Darrian Miller, Jordan Nubine and Bernard Thomas, Ford had the chance to log some more face time with Kansas coaches, tour the program's state-of-the-art indoor practice facility, and even scope out the on-campus dormitories set aside for student-athletes.

That's where Phil Ford figured out he wanted to be a Kansas Jayhawk. Not at the 50-yard line of Memorial Stadium, or in the expansive weight room, or in a coach's office. But rather inside the small dorm room of incoming freshmen Dexter McDonald and Keeston Terry – both Kansas City products, both highly-touted for their football abilities, and both friends of Ford.

"When Dexter came and picked (he and the Blue Springs prospects) up and we went back to his room, we just all talked about stuff like college and what it's like to be here, and all the stuff you get to do," Ford explained. "We were in his and Keeston's room for probably an hour and a half. They were talking about how they want to get all of us here so we can compete for a Big 12 Title."

So while leaving the office of running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell at the visit's conclusion, the big lineman gently pulled his mom aside.

"I said, 'I don't want to wait anymore,'" he said. "'I just want to do this.'"

The quick decision came as something of a surprise to her, Walker said, though a pleasant one.

As of last week, mother and son planned not only a return trip to Kansas, but a visit to the University of Minnesota, from whom Ford also had a scholarship offer on the table. At that point, he felt he would be ready to make his decision by the self-imposed deadline of July 26 – his birthday.

Though the plans may have changed, Walker is "100-percent" comfortable with her son's decision to attend school and play football at Kansas.

"I always liked KU, I really did," she said. "But I didn't want him to make the decision solely (based on) proximity. I wanted him to weigh all of his options."

With his mom's blessing in hand, Ford turned around and delivered the good news to Mitchell, who was understandably excited. In Ford, the Jayhawks now have landed the sixth lineman in what is shaping up to be an exceedingly talented group along the trenches for the Kansas Class of 2011.

Here's what Scout.com Midlands Region Recruiting Manager Greg Powers had to say about the 6-foot-6, 325-pound tackle's ability:

"I think Phil is the type of kid that could be really as good as he wants to be. The switch is just now kind of flipping on for him, because he's really hit the grind this off-season in the classroom and in the weight room. So things are really starting to come together for him, and that really can only mean good things for him in the future.

He's got the size, he's got the feet, he's got the reach and he's got the intangibles to be a really solid offensive tackle prospect."

For many prospects and their families, the recruiting process can be a serious grind. Dealing with the constant flood of mail, text messages, phone calls and visits can become a lot to deal with as the young man at the center of it all prepares for his senior year of high school.

Thankfully, Walker said, knowing her son is happy in his decision and in good hands for the future is already providing a sense of relief.

"It was kind of crazy to deal with every day," Ford noted. "Everyone at school asking 'Where are you gonna go? Are you gonna stay close or go far away?' I would dream about it every night. Even days I didn't think about it was always on my mind."

"I was telling another parent, it's a blessing for a kid to get a scholarship," Walker added. "But on the other hand as far as the recruiting process, I don't know if I'd wish that on anybody. It's a weight lifted off our shoulders, it really is."

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