PW: On the day you committed to Northwestern, where did your recruitment stand? What were you expecting?
Before I committed that day, I was planning to visit Washington that Friday. The Washington visit was actually supposed to be in June, but I moved it up because of the pace that the recruitment might follow. My mindset was that I was blown away by Northwestern. But I'd only visited one school (Arizona) prior to that. I wanted to make sure I got a feel for another school.
I had a feeling that the recruitment would go fast at the position. And I said: ‘You know what, Northwestern is really where I want to be. If someone does commit, I don't want to lose an opportunity, because that's something I would regret.' But I was confident in my visit. I still feel that to this day.
PW: Describe the situation: Where you were, how you heard of the Gaziano commitment, and how your decision process unfolded.
Coach Long messaged me saying that we needed to talk. I was at home, by myself, with my little sister and I called. He said yeah, Joe committed, and there was one spot left. I personally believe that I was the first or second guy they contacted. He said: ‘It's your decision now.'
Long was [scheduled] to come in to my school to have a visit with me. But then I called my mom and called my dad. I had told them that in a hypothetical situation that I was going to pull the trigger as well. I did and it was pretty crazy for a few minutes. My parents weren't even home when I committed.
PW: You're making the decision. What are the key factors going into it?
First and foremost, Northwestern's a really great school. To have an opportunity to go there is something I wouldn't be able to do without football. I have a decent GPA at 3.7 and that's still miles away from being good enough to get into Northwestern. The Northwestern culture is something that I really liked and it was one of the deciding factors in my mind. All of these guys had the same mindset as I did.
PW: Because you've experienced it firsthand, do you think about the idea of the recruiting process moving so far forward so quickly?
I really dislike this part of the recruiting process. I think it needs to be changed, and 10 years ago it was different than what's happening now. The recruiting processes for the class ahead, 2016 and 2017, is tiring and long. It gets you a really big head, especially based on how early it happens. Unless you have some strong people to guide you, it hurts in the long run.
Aside from an ego point, we can only take visits officially starting in September. I would say half the guys, if not more, are committed without taking an official visit. It's very strong on what they say. Maybe move the official visits earlier. Guys who may have less means are only getting what they can get. They're losing out on spots by not committing earlier.
Move up the official visits to say, three during the spring and the last two in the fall. It doesn't make any sense to me. The coaches are kind of fighting the same thing because recruiting is happening earlier. Everyone has to deal with it.
PW: Considering these difficulties, you talked about the "hypothetical situation" of committing right away. How did you get there?
Well, I wanted to make sure that I prepared myself as best I could. I had a gut feeling that something was going to happen. They were recruiting pretty hard at the time period. I was always going to have a mindset of what I was going to do given the situation.
It kind of hit me like: ‘Man, [NU] is a pretty good school.' I'm going to say no to every other school in the nation as a 17-year-old. Once my parents got home, it kind of hit me a little bit more. I did what I wanted to do.