Brett Nagel is still moving toward a college decision this spring, so it is unsurprising that he is making unofficial visits to some of his top schools of interest. Last weekend, the Lemont (Ill.) High School junior tripped to Stanford with his father, and that was followed on Tuesday by Nagel spending all day at Northwestern. And when we say "all day," we mean just that.
"I got there for position meetings at 6am, so I had to wake up at 4:30. That was pretty tough; I was pretty tired all day," the recruit recounts. "They did position meetings. Then I watched spring practice, which started at 7:30. Then I ate training table with the players for breakfast. I met with a business professor. Then I met with an academic advisor. Then I met with the linebackers coach. They took me over to see the equipment room, locker room and that kind of stuff. Then I met with Coach Fitz."
"Oh, and I also got a campus tour," Nagel adds. "I hadn't had a campus tour before, so I got a better feeling for the campus and where everything is located. It's kind of close together. The academics, too - they answered some of my questions."
Circumstance brought the Land of Lincoln linebacker to Stanford last Saturday, which did not coincide with one of the Cardinal's spring practices.
"It was kind of the same, actually," Nagel says, comparing his recent itineraries. "I went to the position meetings, and I met with coaches. I got a campus tour. I met with [recruiting coordinator] Lance Anderson, and we talked about academics. It was all the same, just without a practice."
While there was nothing to witness on the practice field, Nagel lists nearly every coach on the Cardinal staff as part of his day on The Farm: head coach Jim Harbaugh, coordinators Scott Shafer and David Shaw, linebackers coach Andy Buh, offensive line coach Chris Dalman, defensive ends coach D.J. Durkin and on. The visiting recruit was clearly a focus of attention for Stanford on Saturday.
"I think pretty much every coach was there," Nagel notes. "I talked with Coach Shafer a little bit about defensive schemes - what they run and what they see me playing. I think I might start off as a strong safety and then make a transition to weakside linebacker. Then I went and sat in a linebacker meeting with Coach Buh and the linebackers. That was good because I right in there with the players. I could compare and stuff like that. We watched tape from the day before, so I learned how he coaches and what he teaches."
"Later I had a meeting with Coach Buh," he continues. "And he told me how he teaches defense, how he evaluates his players and how he moves them up depth chart-wise. I thought his strategy was really cool, what he does. He showed me a packet of probably 20 pages from one practice, and I thought he came off as a really good coach."
Though Nagel did not have the opportunity to watch the Stanford players practice, he did sit in meetings with them. He also had his tour of the campus led by a pair from the home front.
"I went on a campus tour with Tom McAndrew and Alex Loukas for about half an hour. They were both Illinois guys, so that was kind of cool," Nagel says. "We went all around the campus. They showed me the stadium, which was really cool. It was different from the players perspective - not as professional, I would say. They're talking like how I would be thinking. They helped a lot, too. We talked about social life, dorms, classes and how you can also live off-campus."
From the Stanford staff, as well as from his cousin and Cardinal signee Coby Fleener, Nagel had heard plenty of hype about Stanford prior to this trip. One has to wonder, after all the build-up, if the reality could match the promise.
"It definitely matched up," he maintains. "I liked it a lot. I thought everything there was pretty awesome. The campus is beautiful. Everything there is pretty awesome. It definitely matched up."
The one downer on his day may have been the overcast skies and morning rain, but Nagel put the weather in perspective.
"I realize that it's sunny almost 300 days a year," he offers. "Even with it raining outside, it was still warmer than it is in Chicago right now."
"I know they have offered a lot of linebackers, so I don't know if they are going to be offering any more," the younger Nagel notes. "It would be nice, but I'm not exactly sure where I stand."
If the Irish decide against adding a second Nagel soon, that would ostensibly close the door on that possibility for the Lemont linebacker. Aaron committed in March of his junior year, and Brett also has designs on wrapping his recruitment in the coming weeks.
"I'm still hoping for May. At the latest, probably early June. That's what I'm shooting for. I'm trying to start narrowing it down here pretty soon," says Nagel. "A month or so ago when we talked last, I hadn't been to any of these schools. Now, I have seen what they're about, and I can evaluate them personally - not based on what I hear from other people. That will help a lot."
"I haven't narrowed it down much yet, but I plan on doing that soon," he adds. "Probably down to like five, and then three. But no, I haven't done it yet."
Any time a recruit talks about trimming his list, the question has to be asked. Will the Cardinal make the cut?
"I was very impressed with what I saw at Stanford. They should probably be up there," Nagel asserts. "Everything there, I thought was awesome. I like Stanford a lot."
The tight-knit Nagel family will be involved in this thought process. The father also made the trip out West last weekend and was sold on Stanford.
"My dad and I talked about it. He loved Stanford a lot, too," says the son. "I don't think it will be as big a problem for him if I go far away, as it would be for my mom. I told her my thoughts on Stanford, and she realizes that even if I do go far away, it's going to be my choice. I think she has accepted that. Or she's trying to accept that right now."
"I'm still trying to check in on all the schools," Nagel explains. "There are few places I haven't been yet, which I hopefully will be able to check out, but time is starting to run short here. I'm going to do the best I can."
"I had one scheduled for Colorado in May, and probably Colorado State while I'm there. Early May," he adds. "I don't know if that is for sure still. It depends on my dad's work schedule, when he will be able to go out there. We were anticipating a date, but I don't know if that is for sure. I don't have any others set up."
If Stanford is in good standing when he winnows his list, the other part of the Cardinal recruiting equation for Nagel will be gaining admission to the school.
"They gave me the application while I was there. I have it at home, and I'm currently filling it out," he reports. "We didn't talk about any exact date, but they told me to get it done as soon as I can. Not to rush it, but in a reasonable time. Maybe by the end of this weekend or early next week, I'm going to try to have it done and sent back to them."
With a 32 ACT and a GPA north of 4.0, Nagel sounds like as strong a candidate as Stanford has can hope to have apply. Thus, the academic issues would appear to be less of a hurdle in this story.
That changed recently, with a grand new twist.
"I'm planning on graduating early from high school after the first semester," Nagel reports. "I actually sat down and talked about it with my parents a couple weeks ago, along with my counselor and my football coach. Everybody thought it would be a good idea, so I decided upon that. That's what I'm planning on doing. It is kind of a newer decision."
"Coach Harbaugh told me that they had never done that before at Stanford, with spring enrollment for football players," the recruit relates. "He told me that he's looking into it right now. He has to talk to the Dean [of Admissions]. He is pushing for me to be the first player to do that, so I thought that was pretty awesome."
"I think that definitely would be pretty awesome," Nagel continues. "I guess that's kind of like history. Nobody has done that before. I'd be the first one, and that would be saying something about Harbaugh's new dedication to the program and where it will be going into the future. Also saying something about how they feel toward me as a player. I think that would be pretty awesome."
And if there proves to be no flexibility on The Farm for Nagel's early enrollment designs?
"It is a firm plan, but if the school that I choose says that they don't do that, it won't be a negative toward that school," he offers. "I'll be able to wait it out, I guess."
The Cardinal's endeavor to land a linebacker like Nagel is a big enough story, but there is something bigger still at stake for the Stanford Football program, with Harbaugh's attempt to break ground in the realm of early enrollment. That makes this one of the focal stories to follow in the Class of 2008, with far reaching ramifications. Stay tuned.
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