Growing up the son of an unabashed Michigan fan, Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral defensive end Hunter Echols had formed pretty lofty expectations of what the campus would be like prior to his visit last week. The longtime UCLA commit wanted to see if perception and reality were the same thing in this case.
Indeed it was.
“I really enjoyed Ann Arbor,” said Echols. “The people are welcoming. They all love football out there. They treated me like I was already on the team even though I was just a recruit. The whole city just really enjoys football. As far as the coaching and the facilities… I love the facilities and tradition. It was nothing fancy as far as the weight room, but (they’ve signed with Nike/Jordan), so I know new heat is coming for Michigan. Just the (thought) of playing in the Big House… that’s the largest stadium in the country, so just to play in front of 114,000 every home game would be amazing. There’s a lot of tradition at Michigan. I really enjoyed my trip.”
One of the highlights was the chance to connect with members of the team, especially the one regarded as the best player entering college football this season.
“I had to chance to talk with Rashan Gary and really got to mingle with him and just learn some things about Michigan from him, like why he picked them,” Echols said. “He told me that they’re ranked in the top five for everything across the board as far as education. His mom is big on education (and) he is big on education, so that (was a big factor). And with football… everybody at Michigan wants to win. They’re all dogs. They all want to go play in the national championship. For a person like him to want to go to Michigan… that’s really big. He’s trying to win. I want to win too, so Michigan has a very good shot (in his recruitment).”
Gary is just part of the reason for the Wolverines’ improving chances. As a matter of fact he cited another aspect of the visit that stuck out to him even more.
“(It was) mainly the coaches and the way they recruit me and they treated me up there. I really respect them and I really like what they’re doing and how Coach Jim Harbaugh is turning the game around at Michigan (and) making them a playoff team hopefully.”
Virtually the entire staff made it a point to share with Echols the opinion that he could play a major role in that success. The Wolverines made such a strong impression that they cemented their place on his official visit list.
“Michigan has a real shot,” he reiterated. “That’s why I’m taking an official visit there. I really like the coaches and the way they recruit and (also) the players. I’m going in the winter time to watch a game. I don’t know which one, but I’m going back and Michigan definitely has a real shot.”
“I’m (taking official visits) to Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama, and UCLA.”
“I’m done taking unofficial trips because it’s getting repetitive. It is kind of like the same thing over and over. It’s taking a toll on my body. I want to stay with my team. I keep leaving my team going on these unofficial trips. We have practice and I’m trying to bond with my own team, so I can’t just be an individual. I’m trying to still be a team player. I’m trying to lead my team to a state championship.”
The Golden State star plans to limit his focus on recruiting to the aforementioned visit weekends so as not to be distracted from his stated goal. The deliberation process will then commence after the season and a final decision will likely be announced at the Army All American game. The list of criteria that the winner will have to meet has already been set.
“Academics (are) #1,” said Echols. “That’s first. If any school top UCLA (academically) as far as my major, which will be communications, then for sure I’m going to lean towards them a little because academics are always first. Then second, just a good football program… somewhere that can help me get to the next level. (Also) how me and my family feel when we take these official trips because it’s a family decision. It’s my decision, but I want my family be 100% supportive of where I want to go.”
One non-essential factor will be distance from home.
“I feel like I can handle going out of state,” Echols insisted. “It really doesn’t matter. I know I could always come home to see my family. Of course I’m going to miss my mom’s meals and stuff like that, but I could sacrifice that for a good education and a chance to go to the NFL.”