Georgia was one of the first schools to get in touch with Shuler, and it made a strong early impression.
"As early as my sophomore year I took unofficial visits down there and started to get a feel for it," Shuler said. "It really was the first school that I really saw myself at."
After Shuler committed to Stanford over summer, he lost contact with Georgia. But when the Bulldogs found an opening in their 2012 offensive line class, they reached out to Shuler, who wanted to make sure Stanford was the right fit with signing day fast approaching.
"It was one of those things where I really felt like I needed to validate my choice," Shuler said. "I was having some doubts. Stanford is a long way from home for me, so it was a couple different things that I think creep into any recruit's mind, but specifically for myself two weeks before signing day everything is kind of racing through your mind."
To complicate matters, Shuler got along well with the entire Georgia staff and formed a close bond with Bulldog assistant coach Rodney Garner, who played with Shuler's dad at Auburn. After careful deliberation, Shuler decided to officially visit Georgia last Sunday.
"I decided I needed to go down there because I don't need to have any regrets, any what-ifs in my mind," Shuler said. I went down there Sunday and came home Monday and I really enjoyed my visit. I loved the staff at Georgia. They're very, very impressive and they're going to do very well. The visit went great."
Shuler returned home on Monday and did some deep soul-searching. He met with his family, coaches, and mentors before coming to a decision. A particularly revealing conversation with his high school offensive line coach guided Shuler to his ultimate choice.
"I was like, ‘Coach, what am I doing?'" Shuler said. "We filled up his entire two white boards of the pros and cons of Stanford and Georgia and just compared everything and put everything on paper. Georgia won a lot more categories than I thought they were going to win. A lot of those were proximity to home and things like that, but at the end of the day it was where do you see yourself in 15 years. For me, I want to be part of that Stanford network, I want to be a part of that family. I've built such an incredible relationship with that coaching staff, with the incoming class, my fellow recruits, just the guys that I'm going to be able to spend these next four years with. I'm so excited about my time with them. It's one of those things where I knew that the education and the experience were going to be top notch and it was really something that I couldn't pass up.
"That was one of the things that I told myself, ‘Graham, you can't pass Stanford up.' This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that people will kill for. I have friends who applied to Stanford who are brilliant and didn't get in. It's one of those things where I need to take full advantage of the opportunity God has provided me. I don't have the terms for it, but it really opened my eyes to this whole process and I think I was able to see it all a little bit clearer than I had even when I committed…All in all, Stanford was where I wanted to be."
The support of Stanford's coaching staff during Shuler's decision-making process helped cement his choice.
"I came home Monday from my official to have my in-home with Coach Shaw," Shuler said. "I didn't tell the coaches before I went down there so I got home and Coach Shaw was already at my house. He had been there for about ten minutes. I walked in and said, ‘Hey coach, I just got back from Georgia.' He looked at me kind of funny and I explained to him what had happened and what the situation was and I told him: ‘I'm firm to Stanford, Stanford is where I went to be. I apologize I didn't tell you ahead of time I was going to take that visit but I needed to have a clear mind when I went down there. I was afraid I was going to have a lot of pressure from you all that I was taking another visit.'
"He looked at me and said, ‘Graham, thank you for telling me. You didn't have to tell me but I'm glad you did. If you had called me, I would have told you to go. I would have convinced your parents to let you to go. You needed to go. You needed to see it, you need to experience all this stuff.' I think that's one of the things to me that's so impressive about Stanford. Stanford had the confidence that their school is everything you could ever want, and if you don't want that with all your heart then you don't need to be here. That's really what kind of hit me as I was talking to him."
Shuler's fellow Stanford recruits were also sympathetic.
"The recruits, they really understood," Shuler said. "I think this is a crazy process for 18-year-olds and 17-year-olds. It has turned into a very, very insane process. So I really was so thankful, because we all have gotten close, guys like Dontonio Jordan and Conner Crane. They were on my case: ‘Graham, what are you doing, you've been all-in for so long and now you're doing this.' But they respected it, that I needed to [figure] that out for myself. Even prospects we have like Kyle Murphy completely understood where I was coming from. It's tough, it's a tough ordeal, but I tried to handle it as best I could and hopefully I didn't upset too many people in this process."
While Stanford fans were thrilled to have Shuler solidly back in the fold, he generated even more excitement when he Tweeted a recruiting prediction Monday morning: "Don't be surprised when the dust settles on NSD and #Stanford has a top 10 or even a top 5 class," Shuler posted.
The Bootleg asked Shuler to expound upon that statement.
"I'm really excited about our class," Shuler said. "If we don't pick up another commit, I'll be ecstatic about this class -- this is such a great group of guys. But I've had the privilege of building relationships with guys like Kyle Murphy and Aziz Shittu and Jameis Winston and guys that are kind of on the fence with us…I would like to play with Andrus Peat and Kyle and Jameis and Aziz and Zach Hoffpauir and all those guys, [but] at the end of the day it's their choice and I'll root for them even if they're at Oregon or USC or Cal or wherever they are."
Shuler will sign with the Cardinal on Wednesday during a signing day ceremony at his high school. He will also be on 102.5 FM in Nashville at 7:45 a.m. local time.
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