College football scouts didn’t know the name Ross Cockrell last year at this time. They weren’t alone in their ignorance. Opponents in his own city didn’t know much about him either, but by the end of the year he was being recognized as one of the top players in Charlotte area.
“My season went pretty good last year,” said Cockrell. “I had 41 catches for over 800 yards, and seven touchdowns. It was my first year on varsity last year, so I was pretty excited to be out on the field.”
The local buzz didn’t translate into national recognition, though, so many of the schools he was interested in still didn’t know much about him. Because of that, Cockrell and his father got proactive and contacted the schools themselves. The University of Michigan was one those calls. That resulted in an invitation to the annual summer camp in Ann Arbor.
“I was actually out there Monday and Tuesday,” Cockrell recalled. “I played receiver Monday and then I came back out for defensive back. Tuesday I felt great. I felt like I tore the camp up. I was getting almost every single rep and I don’t think I let a receiver catch a ball on me. I felt like I tore the camp up and I had a great time out there.”
Cockrell’s enjoyment extended beyond the practice fields. The campus and the people on it proved to be every bit as impressive.
“It was everything I thought it would be and more,” he said. “I enjoyed the coaching staff, I enjoyed the facilities… I enjoyed it all. I just had a great time up there. I’ve been interested in the Wolverines all of my life. I was born in Detroit, and I used watch them play on Saturdays. Ever since I was a little kid and put on the pads I told my dad I was going to play for Michigan one day. That didn’t leave me once I left the state of Michigan.”
Cockrell’s camp performance certainly moved that dream closer to reality, but it still isn’t quite there yet.
“The coaches had a lot of good things to say and they were telling me I was doing a great job,” he said. “I was hoping to get a scholarship afterwards, but it didn’t really work out in my plans. They did talk to me about it though. They told me not make any commitments until I talk to them. They are going to review tape and get back to me later in the summer.”
Duke, Virginia, and Liberty have already offered, and after a Thursday camp visit to Illinois, the Illini are on the verge. However, thanks to Cockrell’s decision timeline other potential suitors will have more time to evaluate him.
“I was talking to my dad today and I want to (make a commitment) a little bit after school starts,” Cockrell reported. “ I want to just make a visit up to a couple schools and see what the campuses are like when the students are there… go up to a game or two and see what that’s like too. So probably around September or October I’ll make my decision. The most significant factors are playing time -- I want to get on the field as soon as I can -- and how successful the football program has been and will be when I get there.”
Though it’s clear Cockrell’s childhood affinity for the Maize & Blue is still alive, he stopped short of naming Michigan (or any other school) his leader. That said, it is clear that another program has already made a strong impression.
“Right now I like Duke a lot,” Cockrell admitted. “It’s a great academic atmosphere. But I’m not naming a favorite. I’m just going to wait and see what happens. I’m going to Duke (Friday) and Virginia on Sunday. That’s going to round out (his visit schedule).
Once the campus tour is over, the versatile youngster’s focus will shift toward working on his game. Noted previously as a 400m runner (he set the Carolina State record in the 400 with a 48.42), he is working on his speed by competing as a sprinter. His fast 100 meter time to date is a 10.88 and his fastest forty time is a 4.43.
Saiid Cockrell, “My strengths are I’m very quick very fast at defensive back or receiver. Plus I have pretty good hands. But the main thing I need to improve on is my strength. I need to get a little bit bigger since I plan on playing Division I college football. I think I need to gain 10-15 pounds maybe. I’m going to be working hard.”
GoBlueWolverine will have more on Cockrell in the coming months.