Quarterback decisions in recruiting are never easy. When you add in the fact one target is basically right down the road and the other is half the country away, boy oh boy, does it complicate things.
When looking at Oklahoma and the 2018 quarterback race, everyone knew by the spring it was down to two guys.
It was going to be either Newbury Park (Calif.) High’s Cameron Rising or Moore (Okla.) Southmoore’s Casey Thompson. No. 48 in the Scout 100 (Rising) or No. 94 (Thompson). Splitting hairs, take your pick.
OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley made his choice. Rising made his, and OU has the fifth-ranked overall quarterback for 2018 in its back pocket.
Scout’s Greg Biggins caught up with Cameron Rising just minutes after everything was official Sunday morning. So Sooners Illustrated went another direction. To another Rising, Nicko, Cameron’s father.
What transpired was a more than 30-minute enlightening conversation on how everything shook out and how his son is looking forward to traveling halfway across the country to be a Sooner.
“He’s always expressed a desire to play in that part of the country,” Nicko Rising said. “He’s always wanted to play big-time football. He’s always liked OU. When he got there, he fell in love with the place. Lincoln Riley is great. The system is a great fit for him. Everything fell into place.”
The Rising family made a nationwide tour in July, but when they reached Oklahoma, they actually had people to call. Coincidentally enough, Cameron has an uncle in Ada that definitely could alleviate some of that potential homesickness feeling.
The Rising family was at OU on a Wednesday (day after Big 12 media days) and were in Ada relaxing and shooting guns in the country the next day. Stark contrast, for sure, but nothing wrong with it and a sign he could be comfortable in the “country” environment.
A week after Rising’s trip to OU, a familiar face came back to Norman in Casey Thompson. He was on hand for the #ChampUBBQ, and you have to figure that’s sort of where everything came to a head.
Not that there were harsh words or anything of that nature, but that’s where things were laid out for everyone to clearly understand.
With Thompson always using honest as the identifying word with Riley, this was probably the most honest conversation of them all.
Nicko Rising wanted that honesty, too. He received it. He wasn’t afraid to ask Riley that if Thompson wanted to commit, would he take it? Rising said Riley told them he absolutely would.
So it became, in a way, whoever did it first was going to be the guy.
“They have a top five recruiting class for 2017 and then they got the big kid (five-star offensive tackle Brey Walker) already,” Nicko Rising said. “I was sitting there and thinking why wait and be reactive and watch things get taken? I told Cameron that if you like it, let’s go ahead and take it?”
The Rising family knew about Casey Thompson. They knew about the family lineage with his father, Charles, playing at OU and brother, Kendal, starting his college career in Norman.
So there’s always the follow in the footsteps mantra to go with or the other common theme of wanting to blaze your own trail.
Either way, the Rising family didn’t have to be concerned about Thompson’s intentions if they were clear with their own.
Because Riley had made his intentions clear in the spring. Riley offered Rising nearly a full month before offering Thompson. Even after, Riley was as honest as honest can be when the Rising family was in Norman last month.
“When we were there visiting, sitting with Lincoln, talking to Cam, here’s our recruiting board (showing Cameron as No. 1),” Nicko Rising said. “He was consistent from Day 1.”
It’s the same thing that happened in April when Riley had made the trip to California.
“He said this is the guy (Cameron) I want. He said there is a local kid who is comparable. At the time, they hadn’t offered him yet.
“While we were meeting with him, he told Cam he’s the first choice.”
Of course later on Thompson was offered. Most, including Sooners Illustrated, thought it was a countdown for when Thompson committed to OU. Nicko Rising thought the same thing.
But June turned into July and no news meant the door was still wide open for Rising to do whatever it was he set out to do.
It was time to hit the road.
A week-long excursion (to say the least) that saw the Rising family see LSU, Alabama, Houston, TCU, OU and Oklahoma State.
Whew. Take a breath.
He had offers from LSU and TCU already, but Nicko felt pretty confident the Wednesday trip to Norman would be a game-changer.
“I suspected it,” Nicko Rising said. “Before we went on our trip, I thought OU was going to be the place he liked best.”
There were other factors to consider, namely Nicko’s connection with TCU coach Gary Patterson. Nicko was coached by Patterson when Patterson was the defensive coordinator at Cal Lutheran in 1987.
The trip to Fort Worth and seeing what’s going on with the Horned Frogs was a huge one that immediately put TCU in the conversation.
Until the trip to Norman.
“The tradition of OU. The opportunity and the stage – nothing else really compared,” Nicko Rising said. “Jeeb (Hossain) and Drew Hill, those are good guys there. Everything was nice. You look at the facilities. There’s a lot to be excited about.”
UCLA was one of the lone local schools to offer Rising. Arizona State did as well and Cameron’s brother plays there. But staying on the west coast just wasn’t in the cards.
“He’s just not afraid of leaving home,” Nicko Rising said. “Here in SoCal (southern California), the weather is so nice, but he’s always said, ‘Dad, I want to play big-time college football.’ He wants to go where it’s sold out every game. That’s the type of football he wanted to play.”
So after seeing LSU, Alabama, Houston, TCU, OU and Oklahoma State in that order, it was time for the Rising family to head home to Newbury Park.
Sometimes when you take that many trips in such a short period of time, things can get cloudy. It did for Nicko as he admitted he couldn’t remember everything. But for Cam? Nah, no problem. Six visits, six different feelings.
And only one Oklahoma.
“We talked about that after we saw all the schools,” Nicko Rising said. “I think he needed to hear it from somebody else. OU was my No. 1. TCU was my No. 2. Tom Herman at Houston – we love Tom Herman, but OU was my first spot.
“So I asked, ‘what are you waiting for? Go secure your spot.’”
That’s exactly what Cameron did less than two weeks later. He committed to Riley on a phone call Aug. 2 but waited until Aug. 7 to go public with the news.
A lot of OU fans are excited about Rising but some are wondering about the attachment to Riley. There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind Riley is a future head coach in college football, but what if it happens sooner than later? What if it happens, you know, before the 2018 class?
Riley had to do the brunt of the work on the Rising visit with head coach Bob Stoops off at ESPN going through the ringer of the ESPN Car Wash. Hey, the Rising family understood, obviously, but the bond grew even more with Riley.
Is the bond with Riley or with OU?
“I don’t think so,” said Nicko Rising about having second thoughts if Riley leaves. “Cam is the kind of guy that once he makes a commitment, he’s going to stick with it.
“Lincoln made it clear you don’t commit to a school because of a coordinator. You do it for the school, the program. Bob Stoops isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.”
The commitment out of the way, and it’s clear to Nicko the joy is back in his son’s life. It’s back to focusing on Newbury Park. It’s back to trying to somehow improve on a 40-touchdown, 1-interception sophomore season to go along with 11 rushing scores.
But OU will always be on the mind as well.
“We had a great time and can’t wait to get back,” Nicko Rising said. “We’d like to get back for the Ohio State game, but we’ll see. Not sure yet with the schedules. But we will definitely be back.”