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
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 –
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
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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