It has been a recruiting story 12 months in the making, starting with a Boston College offer last January for young Corey Gatewood, then a junior at Belmont (Mass.) Belmont Hill School. The multi-positional athlete committed with his good friend and teammate Dan Williams on February 21, 2006 - just a couple weeks past Signing Day for the preceding class. For Gatewood, though, there was soon a feeling that he had closed off his options when something better might be available.
"Last January, I got offered," Gatewood begins. "My team had just been in the New England championship, and me and my friend - who also committed to BC - had a really good game. Our coach had been telling us from Day One that we were D-I athletes. 'You're D-I athletes. You're D-I athletes. You're D-I athletes.'"
"When we were offered by Boston College, it was big for both me and Daniel," the recruit continues. "My parents didn't go to college, so when Boston College came with the offer, it was really big for my family. That and the fact that I could play D-I football, which I wanted to do very much. I could also stay at home where they could see me, and I could get a lot of local help while at school. I also have a relative who graduated Class of '06 who would also help me. With all that, it seemed like Boston College was a really good decision at the time."
"After speaking to a few of my family members outside of my immediate family, my college counselor and a couple of teachers, they just thought that Boston College wasn't a good fit for me academically," Gatewood explains. "They thought that I had worked too hard in school and thought I was too intelligent. Don't get me wrong, Boston College is a great academic school. They just felt that schools like Harvard or Stanford would be a much better fit for me academically."
The Belmont Hill School standout did not open his recruitment wide, but instead just a crack for a couple of schools he and his support group felt could offer him an elite education.
"There are other places I could have gone, but to be equivalent or better academically than BC, I was pretty much heavily considering Stanford and Harvard. Those were the top two," Gatewood maintains. "Anywhere else, it would be D-I football, but I don't know that it would be the equivalent academically."
Soon after his Boston College offer, Gatewood sent his junior highlight tape to The Farm. The Cardinal were immediately interested and followed with a scholarship offer.
"They got my transcript and found out the kind of student that I am," he says. "From there, they realized that I was such a good fit for their school and pushed really hard for me to apply and try to get in."
Gatewood reports a 3.5 GPA at Belmont Hill School, where he takes a variegated courseload ranging from statistics to AP biology to this his sixth year studying Chinese.
Quietly, the Cardinal and Gatewood developed their recruiting relationship through the spring, which culminated in an unofficial visit he took to California in June. A family vacation to the Golden State served a dual purpose of affording an up-close look at the Cardinal campus, which intensified Gatewood's feelings toward The Farm.
"I saw the school, and it was amazing. I had not seen a campus comparable to that anywhere, in Massachusetts or on the East Coast," he praises. "I didn't get to meet the people or get a feel for the whole atmosphere with the students because there weren't too many people around the campus then. But from the campus and what the stadium was going to look like, I knew it was very unique. Plus all that I had heard about Stanford life."
The incentive was there for Gatewood to dive into the Stanford admissions application that summer, and he completed and submitted the materials during the fall. The next step was a Stanford official visit, which was scheduled for December 8-10. Little did the Bay State standout know that Cardinal head coach Walt Harris would be fired just days prior to his boarding a plane for the cross-country trip. Gatewood stayed the course and took his official visit without a Stanford head coach - or any coaching staff beyond recruiting coordinator Nate Nelson - in place.
"Stanford is very unique," Gatewood explains. "Regardless of who was the coach, I had tremendous faith in Stanford. I knew they would bring someone great in. I wanted to go to Stanford not just because Walt Harris was there, but also because of the institution. Regardless of who the head coach was, I was going to like the school."
The visit turned out to be a surprising success, despite the obvious deficiency.
"I enjoyed it. They ran it smoothly, which is what I was impressed with," Gatewood offers. "From everything that went on and all the people around giving us advice, you couldn't tell that there was chaos with the coaching staff and Walt Harris getting fired. You couldn't tell at all. I got a chance to speak to a lot of the freshmen and a couple of the upperclassmen, who all seemed happy. They loved the campus. They loved the school. They loved the team. Even though they lost, they were happy being together, and everybody cooperated toward each other to do what they needed to be successful."
Joining him on his Stanford official visit were his mother and father. Their excitement for his Boston College offer and commitment were understandable and clear, given the chance for their son to chase athletic and academic pursuits at the next level close to home. It was with mixed emotions that Gatewood's parents examined Stanford, though they came to appreciate the upside of this new opportunity.
"Just like I did, they liked the school. They liked Boston College and me being at home," the son says. "But they knew which one was better for me, and they wanted me to make that decision. They weren't really persuading me to go to either one. They just wanted me to make the decision that I was the most comfortable with."
With a family's full hearts now set on Stanford, there was one big piece missing for surreptitious story. Gatewood needed an acceptance of his admissions application, which he submitted midway through his senior season. The Cardinal requested that he retake the SAT, which he did in December. That score came back with only a marginal uptick. Both Stanford and the wide receiver/cornerback recruit anxiously awaited the verdict from the Stanford Admissions Office.
Word came yesterday that Gatewood had been accepted, and he could not have been more excited.
"I was extremely happy," he reports. "I was actually coming from a loss in basketball - on a bus ride. I got that call, and that changed my whole mood."
Nelson sent a text message to Gatewood to call him, though it was head coach Jim Harbaugh who answered the call from the Massachusetts man.
"He announced the good news to me, 'Corey Gatewood, you have been admitted to the number one institution in the country,'" the recruit remembers. "For the first couple moments, I was speechless. I was extremely excited. His comment obviously was not false. I think Stanford is probably the best institution in the country."
"I was extremely excited. He sounded excited," Gatewood continues. "With the aspirations and plans he has for the upcoming season, I wanted to be a part of that."
The difficult part of this decision is the departure from his previous commitment to Boston College. The silver lining for the in-state star is that his commitment last February to head coach Tom O'Brien is a little easier to dissolve given that the former Eagles head man is now at North Carolina State.
"It actually does make this a lot easier," Gatewood admits. "The people who recruited me - I love those guys. They were very genuine when I met them. To tell them would be a lot different than to tell the new staff that is coming in, who I don't know very well and who I'm not very affiliated with."
Corey Gatewood is the 11th public commitment for Stanford in the 2007 recruiting class. He is the second decommit corralled from the ACC in the past three weeks; Stanford stole offensive lineman Brad Hallick from Virginia last month.
Gatewood is also a splash of déjà vu for both Boston College and Virginia. Two years ago this month, it was another Eastern wide receiver/cornerback committed to the Eagles who jumped to Stanford in Kris Evans.
Similar to Evans, Gatewood is rated a three-star recruit by Scout.com. He also checks in as the #8-ranked prospect in New England.
After the conclusion of his senior season with the Hillies, Gatewood has picked up a host of honors. He was named all-league by the Independent School League, comprising 16 private schools in New England. Gatewood garnered all-state recognition at wide receiver in Super 26 named by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston. He also add all-New England honors.
It is difficult to pin down one position for Gatewood, who played the entire game for Belmont Hill School and starred at a variety of positions.
"This year I was all over the place," he says. "I was playing tailback, receiver, corner, safety, punt return and kick return. I was doing a little bit of everything."
Gatewood rushed for more than 1,000 yards and caught passes for another 500 on offense, racking up 19 touchdowns. On defense he snared five interceptions and was regarded one of the best defensive backs in New England. It was his offensive fireworks, though, which grabbed most of the headlines.
"I'm not as good as him, but I was kind of used how the Saints use or USC used Reggie Bush - split him out and also run at tailback," Gatewood explains. "I ran behind Daniel, who is a pretty big kid. When I was at tailback, I was pretty effective. When we did passing plays, I could be a slot or a wide receiver, and the coaches used creative ways to get the ball in my hands so that I could make plays."
Gatewood was again the star for Belmont Hill School in winning the New England Championship. He carried 24 times for 184 yards in the NEPSAC Class B championship game, including a 36-yard touchdown that put the Hillies ahead for good in a 26-20 win.
In winning the championship, Gatewood and Belmont School upended Greenwich (Conn.) Brunswick School and a 38-game winning streak. The Bruins had bounced the Hillies in their final game a year earlier, and nobody expected that 2006 would be the year Belmont Hill School could go 9-0 and win a championship. Their offensive star of the '05 season (8-1), Barry Gallup, had graduated and moved on to Notre Dame. Gatewood and Williams decided that they would surprise the critics.
"Everybody thought we were going to be just okay or nowhere near as good as last year. We really took it personally, with the responses we heard around the league about how good we were going to be," Gatewood admits. "In the off-season in the summer, we took it upon ourselves to work hard and make sure that we led the team with strong leadership. And we did. We won the ISL championship. We went on to win the New England championship, which we lost to the same team last year. This year we were able to beat them."
With the pinnacle of prep success now behind him, Gatewood is looking ahead to his college future on The Farm. He projects as a Pac-10 impact player at either wide receiver or cornerback.
"I definitely run crisp routes. I'm quick in and out of cuts. I get up the field pretty well after the catch, and I try to make people miss," he says of his offensive abilities. On defense: "I think I'm good reading the quarterback and anticipating passes, making jumps on the routes. And my footwork, playing man-to-man."
Gatewood stands 5'11" and 185 pounds. With his early college commitment, he opted against attending the public recruiting combines last spring. He did work out at Boston College for their summer camp, during which time he was clocked running a 4.40 in the 40 on turf. Regardless of which side of the ball he plays, this is a verifiable athlete added to the Cardinal recruiting class.
"I don't know where I'm going to play," Gatewood states. "When Walt Harris was there, I was being recruited as a wide receiver. I'm not sure where I stand now with the new coaches, though I'd still love to play receiver. I don't have a problem playing defense or offense."
"Confidence-wise, I think I'm stable on both offense and defense, but if I were to choose one position where I have a passion, I love to play on offense," he adds. "I don't know that I'm necessarily more of a threat on offense, but I just feel like I could help the team better if I were to play offense and wide receiver."
Communication between Gatewood and Harbaugh thus far has not specified wide receiver or cornerback - only an excitement for the athleticism he offers.
"He didn't really specify his plans for me in the system. He just wanted me to be admitted," Gatewood reports. "He was impressed with me as an athlete. He just told me how excited he was for the upcoming season, and that he wanted me to be a part of it."
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