It took four months past Signing Day for the great, late(-deciding) Erik Lorig to publicly announce his college commitment. Depending on your perspective, it is either ironic or fitting that a high school senior recruit made his commitment on May 20 but did not tell anyone until yesterday of the highly anticipated news. The Palos Verdes Peninsula High School standout attended his school's Athlete of the Year banquet Wednesday evening, which brought in the local paper for media coverage. During the course of the evening's events, Lorig let slip the news of his Stanford commitment.
"We are all extremely excited to get it done," the recruit speaks of his and his family's relief at the finality of the famously long process. "But we felt afterward that we need to let it sit and let everything rest for a little while. Then at the banquet, the Peninsula News was there, and everything just started rolling."
The Cardinal commitment may be viewed by some observers with a wary eye. After all, Lorig made his long-awaited pledge after the close of the National Letter of Intent signing period, which means his commitment to Stanford is verbal and non-binding. From a distance, it is easy to see someone who waffled so extraordinarily long with this decision - and see someone who could potentially waver again before the start of Stanford's preseason camp in August.
However, Lorig tells The Bootleg that he is just a month away from his arrival to The Farm. As a show of his commitment to the Cardinal, the 6'4" 250-pound tight end will come up in early July and work out with members of the Stanford Football team during their intense summer unofficial workouts.
"I'll be coming up after the Fourth of July weekend," he declares. "I'll possibly come back home for one week before the start of August camp, but I'll be at Stanford in July learning the offense and thinking about it all day, every day."
While actions speak louder than words, Lorig has quite a few strong words he now wishes to deliver on the Cardinal and his Stanford decision.
"I love Stanford. I can't get enough of Stanford right now," he begins. "This is something I'm talking about now, but it's been manifesting in me the last four weeks. Stanford obviously holds both academics and athletics in high esteem. They have a high commitment to every sport on campus - whether it's softball, basketball, water polo or track. They are supportive of their entire Athletic Department. Academically you are going to an Ivy League school, which is so unique."
"The football side is awesome," Lorig continues. "After I have done all my investigation and analysis these months - with all the charts and data - I'm convinced that Stanford is just on the bubble of breaking out. Just look at the six draft picks they had this spring. That was the best in the Pac-10 and fifth best in the nation. They are filled with talent. They have a plethora of talent. Defensively, they were awesome and kept a lot of the coaching staff from that side. Now they have brought in a new offense, and you can tell it is such a big difference. You talk to the players and can really tell; they're eager to break out of the slump. They are eager to roll. I think people will be shocked by what Stanford does in the Pac-10 this year."
When conversation turns to "offense" and "defense," there of course is the ongoing question of where Lorig will play at Stanford. There was a harder push during 2004 under the previous coaching staff to bring him in as a defensive lineman, though once Walt Harris took the controls, the push was focused on a tight end recruitment.
"You saw me when I was there in April watching practice, and I was watching the tight ends most of the time," Lorig shares. "Since Walt's regime came in, I have been recruited as a tight end the whole time. That is where I will start at Stanford, and we'll go from there. And juiced to get going. I've already been doing my own training the last two and a half to three months, and I'm in the best condition I've ever had."
Part of Lorig's long journey included scrutiny of the offense's at the schools he was considering, and how he would be used. Harris employs a hybrid of the West Coast Offense, which has his commit chomping at the bit.
"The offense is very complex," Lorig comments. "There are a lot of read routes, which will be something I will have to learn. They also employ a true wide tight end, which is something I love. They are very balanced in how they use the tight end, and they run two tight end sets. I think it's a really good fit for me."
"Coach Harris, I felt, was a big reason for my decision," he adds. "His leadership and role he takes with the offense will make a big difference in Stanford's success. He will make them break through the bubble. Walt also become the lead recruiter for me once he got there. I can't say enough about him and what he can do."
These are the types of comments we might expect and have seen for a number of Cardinal commitments through the years, but they are almost surprisingly powerful to come from the lips of a man who spent so many months on the fence, unable to make a college commitment. The question everybody has to ask, of course, is how did the decision take so long if he is so decisive in discussing his final choice today?
"I was unsure about the Stanford coaching staff, of course, which had changed," he answers. "It was two to three months of indecisiveness - of purgatory really. It took time to get to know Walt and the whole staff. I learned a lot. It was a whole new process. I hesitated because I didn't really know them. I knew Coach [Dave] Tipton, of course, and he is a great guy. But there was a lot new I had to learn."
The switch at Stanford in the leadership of the program was a factor, but Lorig also admits that he was flawed in his approach to the process leading up to National Letter of Intent Day.
"I didn't really start considering my decision until about a week before Signing Day. That was a big blunder on my part," he admits. "I was busy with my senior season, school and then a pair of all-star games. I wish these last three months had happened at the end of my junior year."
One clue to this chaos came in an interview Lorig gave to The Bootleg back in January. He said then, famously, that he was waiting for an "epiphany." Four-plus months later, it is clear that his expectation of some magic moment was misplaced, and that by itself was a leading cause for his failure to make a commitment by February 2.
"After all these recruiting trips, I was waiting for that special little moment in my gut that everybody told me about. It didn't happen," Lorig laments.
Signing Day came and went, and days stretched to weeks. Weeks stretched to months.
"It was hard for me to tell coaches that I needed more time. I told them that if they had another tight end in the next class or at a junior college they wanted, they should go ahead. Don't wait on me," Lorig says. "All the coaches - I need to thank them all. They went the whole way with me."
That last statement cannot pass without some scrutiny. There have been numerous reports from a variety of sources over these last four months about which schools may have pulled themselves out of this recruiting relationship. The biggest such report was that Jeff Tedford and Cal gave some form of ultimatum to Lorig in late April. This was not just coming from one outlet, but a variety of sources, including some close to The Bootleg. The date in question was Friday April 22. The significance of that timing? Likely it was tied to the four-week spring evaluation period where college coaches could go to high schools for the first big push toward their 2006 recruiting class.
However, three different sources told us in the following weeks that Lorig still had Cal as one of his final three schools under consideration. Publicly, the Rolling Hills (Calif.) student-athlete kept all four in-state Pac-10 schools on his list, but we heard several times that UCLA was the odd man out, while Stanford, Cal and USC remained top of mind. It is not easy to reconcile this with the late April reports of Tedford's ultimatum. And when asked about this and other controversial subjects of his vacillating favorites, Lorig is not shedding any light.
"I don't want to return to the tornado of the past," he deflects. "I'm enrolled at Stanford. I've signed my acceptance card. I've been officially accepted to Stanford, and I'm ready to move forward with the future."
One deadline that was publicly acknowledged by Lorig and his family was the May 2 deadline set forth by the Stanford Admissions Office. In the days leading up to that Monday, we heard that Lorig was on the cusp of a Cardinal commitment, and in fact was saying he would come up the prior weekend to attend Stanford's "Admit Weekend" for fellow members across the nation of the 2005 high school senior class. He did not show, however, and the next week was as tumultuous as any during this process. Lorig and his family had several "commitment" conversations with Cardinal coaches early that week, and at one point started to fax in the needed acceptance paperwork, only to cancel the transmission midstream. By the time the final commitment was delivered by Erik Lorig on the night of Wednesday May 4, he had missed Stanford's deadline.
There was a period of a week or more following that escapade where Stanford was a dead option to Lorig. It is unclear whether Cal or USC kept communications open and/or their offers on the table at that point. We do know that Lorig then returned to UCLA and was close to a surprising commitment to the Bruins. At the same time, however, the recruit and his family continued to push for Stanford. Through those efforts, of which Lorig will not give any comment, the tight end recruit opened a window to The Farm again. He quickly committed on May 20, ending the long and twisting saga.
"It was a difficult process," he allows.
One criticism that has been levied by observers of the prolonged Lorig commitment confusion was the absence of leadership he took. While most 18-year olds aggressively engage elder advisors, including but not limited to their parents and coaches, this Palos Verdes Peninsula HS senior was adamant about a solo journey. Is that something he would change, if he did it all over again?
"Absolutely not," he fires back. "I have come out of this so strong, and I wouldn't do it any other way. It was my choice. My decision. My life. People questioned that, but I had to explain that this was for me, and I had to do it alone."
That is not to say that Lorig would do everything the same, had he the chance to go through this again.
"In big bold letters, 'Start Early!' I highly suggest that nobody wait until the last moment to dive into their decision," he preaches. "If you get the opportunity early from schools in your junior year, take them seriously. Go with your family, or at least one parent, for a weekend to see everything about the school before the hype gets started. Meet as many people as you can. Especially the players - they can tell you what is really going on."
One of the other questions that Stanford fans will ask is who among the 2005 signing class did Lorig lean during these last few months for consultation and conversation about his decision. The SoCal standout indeed spent the entirety of one Stanford spring practice with NorCal friend and fellow four-star athlete Will Powers. But the person who Lorig called the most during the winter and spring was James McGillicuddy, the nose tackle from Massachusetts.
"He's a good friend. We both have a lot of ambition, and we have a similar sense of humor," Lorig comments on his cross-country college teammate. "That's one of the great reasons I chose Stanford. You go to Stanford for all the exposure, not just to academics, but to people all over the nation. Stanford is a collection from all 50 states. It's a place, and a football team, where you get great exposure - even to Sweden. Gustav Rydstedt is a really great guy."
Lorig finally completes the Cardinal's 2005 recruiting class, which now stands at 17 scholarship players. We will see if the recruiting ranking of the class adjusts, now that Stanford has added its fourth four-star athlete and sixth All-American. Lorig was a consensus prep All-American in the 2005 senior class, including SuperPrep, PrepStar and Lemming. He was ranked as the #15 player on the West Coast and #8 tight end in the nation by Scout.com, who also list him as the top overall rated recruit in this Stanford class.
But Pac-10 rivals, and many observers of college football throughout the nation, will not think of those lofty rankings and ratings when following Lorig the next four or five years at Stanford. They will not care that the 250-pound athlete has lowered his 40 time to 4.65 with his training this off-season at the Home Depot Center in Carson (Calif.). Erik Lorig will inexorably remain tied to the four-month recruiting saga that extended past Signing Day with drama and mystery unlike anything we have ever seen. In many ways, Lorig will be a "marked man" by opponents, the media and fans. He carries a truckload of baggage, at least in the eyes of some, with him to The Farm.
"Honestly, I've never considered that idea in my head," Lorig maintains. "In my experience, everything has always been decided on the field when it comes to football. I've had friends email me things that have been said on the message boards, but I just attribute that to the Internet and fan sites. Those people aren't on the football field, and none of that enters into the equation during a game. I'm a football player, and I'm fully committed to being a great football player. We'll see that play out on the football field."
"This was a big emotional decision for me," he concludes. "That Letter of Intent and fax was just a piece of paper. This is my school for life, and that is why I chose Stanford. It's a 40-year decision. Stanford is something I will carry with me my whole life. I feel awesome about that decision, and I'm so ready to get started."
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