Standing a shade over 6'4" and able to run the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds and the shuttle in 4.39 seconds, Dallas (Tex.) St. Mark's School wide receiver Terdema Ussery has attracted attention from a geographically diverse group of suitors. To date, he has racked up offers from Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisville, and Stanford. Like so many other recruits, Ussery has carved out some time in his spring to take unofficial visits to prospective college campuses. His most recent trip came earlier this month in a trip to Stanford that coincided with the Cardinal's Spring Game on April 12.
"I had a great time," the athletic receiver praises. "I am from California originally, but I had never been to Northern California, Stanford, that area. It was beautiful. I really had a great time. Especially the staff was excellent. The game was fun. It was cool to be out there and see them at work and stuff, in competition. I really had a good time."
Perhaps the height of the competitiveness Ussery saw came in the Spring Game itself, which involved a new format that Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh unveiled for the traditional closing scrimmage of spring practices. Rather than simulating competition through sets of downs pitting various units against one another, Harbaugh instituted a Player Draft and charged Offensive Coordinator David Shaw and Defensive Coordinator Ron Lynn with selecting squads that the two coordinators would lead into competition for a Spring Game structured more like an actual game. To fill out position units, select players were allowed to play multiple positions. For one day, the head coach became the commissioner and watched as his coordinators took the reins for their respective squads.
"I thought it was great how they have like intrasquad games and stuff," Ussery reflects on the innovative format. "It looked like they were having a lot of fun but it was still really competitive. It was good."
Aside from watching Lynn's Cardinal squad prevail over Shaw's White squad by a final score of 24-6, Ussery's time on The Farm included many of the visit elements recruits experienced during the two Junior Days earlier in the spring.
"I took a tour of the campus, saw that," he begins in describing the agenda for his trip. "I sat in on an Economics 51 class, which was interesting to say the least. I ate at training table, which was ridiculous. I saw the athletic facilities and locker room. Basically just went around and saw everything and took it all in."
Notwithstanding a mostly typical visit agenda, Ussery's first trip to Northern California included one particularly interesting wrinkle. 1,700 miles from home on a trip with his father to see a potential college destination, Ussery took time out of his weekend to take care of some academic business.
"Actually, I took the ACT at Gunn High School around the corner from Stanford," Ussery reveals. While the test served as a detour from normal visit activities, a Stanford football staff that remains keenly interested in the academic profiles of prospective recruits undoubtedly welcomed the development. All recruits must be accepted by Stanford through the school's admissions process before they can sign Letters of Intent with the Cardinal and Ussery's efforts to develop his admissions credentials are a critical piece of the puzzle if he is to remain on Stanford's radar. For his part, Ussery seems committed to building his academic resume regardless of the results of his April ACT, which he has yet to receive back.
"Oh yeah, definitely," he says of plans to take the test again at some point. "Even if I do what I expect to do, I still want to take it just to see how well I can do."
Ussery's desire to take a standardized test again regardless of how well he does initially may not be typical for a gifted receiver with major college football suitors hot on his trail. That impulse makes more sense, however, in the context of Ussery's other identity: a student at a prestigious Dallas prep school considered among the best in the nation.
"St. Mark's is easily probably the hardest school in Texas," he confirms when asked about the rigor of his high school experience. "They prepare you for college. I mean, everything I've heard from people is they get to college and it's no big deal [with] the amount that we're given at school and just the way that they prepare you to carry that work ethic all the way along."
A second factor in Ussery's drive to establish himself academically comes somewhat paradoxically from his constant exposure to athletes who have reached the pinnacle of their sport on their basis of their physical gifts. As the son of the Dallas Mavericks' president and CEO of the same name, he has ample contact with world-class athletes, even traveling with his father for road games.
"It's interesting," the younger Ussery says of the insights he's picked up. "It's a very grounding experience. I have been shown the degree of difficulty it is to get into a professional arena like the NBA. [It is] a phenomenal amount of hard work along with unparalleled luck. Definitely an interesting experience and very grounding."
In applying these lessons to his own life, the recruit has consistently emphasized that this exposure to elite athletics intensifies his appreciation of the importance of education, saying most recently that "all the more it makes me make sure that while I'm in college, I definitely get my degree and stay focused on that aspect."
With academics playing an important part in Ussery's view of his personal goals going forward, he places Stanford high in his current list of favorite schools.
"Definitely in my top five," he reveals of Stanford's place on his list. "I think that the academics and athletic aspect of it, the combination of the two, is unparalleled. I think they've won 13 Sears Cups, 6 in a row, 7 in a row. They're definitely strong in the academics. Stanford is top five in almost every department, top seven in every department."
Rounding out his top five at this point are Notre Dame, Florida, USC, and Oregon. Notably, Stanford stands alone among the five schools that have offered with its place on this current list of favorites. At this point in the recruiting process, Ussery has visited two of the schools in his early top five, making a trip to Notre Dame earlier in the spring with his father just as he did earlier this month to Stanford.
"I enjoyed it," he relates of that first visit. "I had never been to Indiana. I enjoyed it a lot. I liked it."
At this point in his recruitment, he plans on also taking trips to the other schools in his initial top five. One such trip is imminent.
"Oregon this upcoming weekend," Ussery shares in running down his visit schedule. "And then probably USC and Florida sometime in the summer."
Stay tuned for more on Ussery's recruitment as he undoubtedly picks up more offers and progresses toward making a college decision.
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