Chris Wormley finally breathed a sigh of relief Sunday afternoon. The Toledo Whitmer had grown weary of the recruiting process almost as soon as it began, so his decision to pledge to Michigan was gratifying on a few different fronts.
"There's just so much pressure off now," said Wormley. "I can just focus on football and my senior year now. (Michigan) was just the best place for me. The weeks leading up to (the barbecue at the Big House) it just all tied in together. Probably about a couple of weeks ago I realized it. The last time I was up there everything was great. The coaches made me feel comfortable, the facilities are great, the recruits that are coming in… (Michigan is on) top of the country for 2012 recruits. It was everything that was up there. The town of Ann Arbor is a great place to live and hopefully the football program bounces back this year. I think we'll do some big things the next five or six years."
Upon finally coming a firm conclusion about his future, all that was left was for Wormley to figure out was how to deliver the message to the Michigan coaching staff. The always reserved youngster chose a low key method befitting his personality.
"We were all up at the barbecue and we were going down to the stadium to chill down there with all the other recruits," Wormley recounted, "I asked Coach Mattison, Coach Hoke, Coach Singletary and Coach Montgomery if they could stay up there so I could talk to them. That's when I just did it."
There may not have been television cameras or reporters around to make more of a spectacle of the moment, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't ample excitement in the room when he broke the news. Brady Hoke was particularly jubilant, as evidenced by the way he chose to seal and celebrate the victory.
"I told them and then Coach Hoke, who was sitting to the right of me, just tackled me," the four-star defensive end said laughingly. "Then he gave me a kiss on the cheek… which was a little weird… but okay (laughter). All the coaches were all excited and they gave me handshakes and hugs and stuff. They were real happy."
That joy was also shared by Wormley's family and his girlfriend. They'd weathered every step of the recruiting process with him, so they were visibly emotional about the decision. That was especially true of his mother who still laments her absence on the day her favorite team (i.e. Michigan) offered her son a scholarship last fall. This time she was present and accounted for.
"My mom, her boyfriend Victor, my girlfriend Lexie were all there," he stated. "They had all went downstairs and it was kind of a one-on-one thing with the coaches and me. They all knew that I was going to (commit) and they were all excited and everything. My mom was crying for about 20 minutes from just all the emotions and everything. It was just a real good time up there. (Lexie) was all teary-eyed and so was Victor. It was just real good and it was good to get it over with."
With that out of the way, Wormley turned his attention to further connecting with his future teammates. It was a process that began well in advance of Sunday's visit.
"(Kyle) Kalis, (Tom) Strobel and (Kaleb) Ringer… I talked to all three of them pretty much on a weekly basis," the Whitmer star reported. "We were all clowning around and having fun together. I think we started our team bonding type thing."
There was also time spent gaining a firmer understanding of how he'll be utilized once he arrives in Ann Arbor.
"(The coaches) are going to start me out as a five technique and keep the skinnier, faster guys at the rush end," Wormley explained. "We'll just see how big I get and what's going in the next year or so."
Until then, all of the 6-5, 270-pounder's athletic focus will be on his high school team. His former wing man Ken Hayes has gone on to Ohio State, but the goals for Wormley and his current teammates are nonetheless high.
"No one can really replace Kenny Hayes," admitted Wormley. "He is one of the great football players that has come out of Whitmer high school. We're just going to fill the spots we need to fill and come back as strong as we did last year."
"The goal for the team it definitely state championship. We're definitely going to have to work hard for that. For myself, my goal is to just improve and make everyone believe that I am one of the top recruits in the nation and go out with a bang."