Aaron Batten was an undeclared prospect for the first three-and-a-half years of his high school career. Then, in mid-January, he took an official visit to Kent State and committed to the Golden Flashes with a chance to excel in the MAC.
Further east, Syracuse University coach Doug Marrone moved on to the Buffalo Bills, and the new staff came in late on Batten with an offer. After getting the two-way Miami (Fla.) Dade Christian standout to officially visit over this past weekend, the tight end/defensive end switched his commitment to the Orange before heading back to Miami.
The visit was everything for George McDonald and company on a day in which they also landed commitments from Alex Hayes and Corey Cooper at the tail end of the big weekend. But it wasn't easy for Batten.
"It was hard, but once I realized it, it opened up my eyes," said the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder of his flip to SU. "Playing in the MAC and playing in the ACC, it's the better opportunity. I can play against the schools that I wanted to go to or was looking at (before)."
The collection of coaches and players in Central New York made a big difference in the process.
"They were great, they were very welcoming," he said first of the coaches. "They welcomed me to the team. "
"My host was Jerome Smith. Number 45. He was cool, he showed me the team and introduced me to the team and showed me the scene…he's a ladies man," he continued with a laugh. "He showed me the campus, the dorms…he just showed me Syracuse."
But what may have been the biggest factor, besides the difference in programs, was McDonald. The new offensive coordinator and reputable recruiter was familiar with Batten during his time recruiting him at Miami.
"He's that guy. He's the man," the senior said. "He'll be straight up with you 100 percent. He'll tell you how he feels, his goal for you…he's not going to sugar coat anything. If he thinks you're bad in an area, he'll let you know."
The two-way standout was able to meet with Scott Shafer before committing to the Orange, as well.
"He was glad to get a guy like me that was very versatile on offense and defense," said Batten. "He said I'm a big threat and one of a kind.
"They were really, really happy."
The next big question surrounding the Dade Christian star is his role at the next level. With experience on both sides of the ball, both he and the staff have a decision to make.
"I was on defense for a long time, and I just started offense two years ago," he said. "But it doesn't matter, I'm very versatile. Wherever they need me, I'll play."
Batten brings speed and athleticism off the edge no matter which side of the ball he ends up on.
"I'm a hybrid tight end," he admitted. "I can play slot receiver, I can block. I'm a dangerous threat…most teams have to switch between blocking and receiving tight ends. I can do both, plus I have the speed…I have a lot of speed."
"I'm more like a strong-side end or a weak-side linebacker (on defense)," he continued. "I can contain the outside or stuff the hole, but my main goal is to get QB's. I'm at defense but I'm gradually getting better at offense.
"Maybe I'll be better on offense next year when they're coaching me."
Not only does Batten prove versatile on the gridiron, but his prowess in another pair of sports helped to mold him as a prospect.
"Track is not an easy sport, you have to put in time and you have to work hard," he shared. "It may be harder than football, it either makes you or breaks you. I'm a sprinter, I run the one (hundred meter-dash), two and the four. I run a 51.2 (second time) in the four, 22.4 (200), and then a 10.9 100.
"Basketball helps me, jumping-wise. It taught me how to run and jump and stay balanced. It made my vertical jump go up. "
No matter the position or ending point for Batten, he's finished with the recruiting process after achieving a goal he set at the beginning of his recruitment.
"I grew up rooting for the Gators. The U (Miami) actually was recruiting me, but I didn't want to stay in Miami, honestly," he admitted. "I've been in Miami my whole life, I just want to explore.
"I was in two degree weather (at Syracuse). I had on my long john's, big jacket and everything. It was crazy. But I'm glad I'm not stressing anymore. I'm done. Done!"
After more laughs and a sigh of relief, Batten wanted to share one more thing with Syracuse fans.
"What can I say…just expect the unexpected!"