Monmouth Junction (N.J.) South Brunswick running back Dontae Strickland gave Syracuse a verbal pledge on Saturday. The thought that the Orange were the right fit started from the first time he visited just a few weeks ago.
"When I went up there, coach Acosta was the first coach I met up there, I just felt at home from the second I got out of the care," Strickland said. "Going up there the second time with my whole family just put the icing on the cake. Having them experience what I felt the first time just made it better.
"It was just the whole experience. The coaching staff was helping me and made me feel comfortable about everything. My big things was the second time I went up there, it was like I was already a part of everything. I have a big family so them feeling at home like I felt, put it all together that it was the right decision for me."
The three-star running back will forever be the first player to commit to new assistant Bobby Acosta at Syracuse. That relationship was a big factor in why he felt at home.
"It was an honor to start it off for him," Strickland said. "Now that I'm part of the team I can help him out with recruiting other players. He would talk to me every day. Probably every hour of the day as a matter of fact. Just him talking to me and giving me the little messages before school, during school and him always being there for me.
"He was always there making the relationship even better and keeping in touch day to day."
One of Strickland's good friends, cornerback Daivon Ellison, visited Syracuse the day after he committed. He talks to Ellison regularly and will be helping the Orange recruit the talented defensive back.
"Me and him, we talked even when I went up there," Strickland said. "He went up there the day after, on Sunday. We've been talking about it from playing together at Rutgers to Syracuse. Just us playing together on the same team at the next level would be cool.
"We have a close friendship and we got closer on our Rutgers visit a while back. Just us being on the same team, we think would be pretty cool. So we'll wait for his decision coming soon."
Also visiting on Sunday was Jordan Fox, yet another New Jersey target who is friends with Strickland. The South Brunswick standout plans to work on Fox as well during the recruiting process.
"I talked to him about two or three days before I went to go visit," Strickland said. "He messaged me after my visit to see what my experience was and I told him it was amazing. I was hoping for him to go up there, not to pull the trigger, but just to get good feedback on the school to see if further down the road he wants to make the same decision I made on Saturday."
With his decision made, Strickland is focused on what he can accomplish at Syracuse during his collegiate career.
"Personally, just to get my degree and graduate in the three or four years I'll be there, maybe five," he said. "Then to make a big impact on the team. Try to help turn the program around to the best of my abilities. To do anything I can to help my team whether it's offensively, defensively or on special teams.
"Team goals, I want to win a national championship. Bring home a championship to our Syracuse team and just help them out as best as I can."
Strickland did not completely rule out looking at other schools, but said he is very happy with his decision and believes he is done with the recruiting process right now. He added that is a big relief off of his shoulders to have it over.