For James Locke, this week's trip to the West Coast was an eye-opener.
Having never been more than an hour west of Beaumont (Tex.) in his life prior to the recruiting process, his tour through the Pac-12 schools took him to Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA.
"It was a great trip, man," Locke said. "I had a great time. It was very exciting."
First on the agenda for the three-star cornerback was Oregon, where he was impressed with the glitz and glamor, but also the academic support the Ducks provide their athletes.
"They have a great coaching staff, and they're very family-oriented," Locke said. "It's just a great campus overall. Everything is pretty close together, so it's easy to get from place to place. They have a great academic support system, and a great academic advisor. I talked with him for about an hour and a half, and I could really see myself fitting into one of those programs."
Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to Oregon without taking in the state-of-the-art facilities, and Locke said he was suitably impressed.
"Their facilities are off the chain," Locke said. "They're great. It's crazy. They're pretty big and everything, and I didn't even see all of them. That's one of the things they throw at you at Oregon. It's a really flashy school. I wouldn't mind being one of those types of schools, with the cool uniforms and facilities, but that's not the biggest concern when picking a college or anything."
Next on the agenda for Locke was Stanford, which provided a bit of a different feel from Oregon.
"Stanford has a great campus, but from the outside looking in you don't necessarily think anything of it," Locke said. "The reputation of Stanford is kind of geeky, and it can be intimidating when you're look at the students because of the academic reputation. Once we met the people and everything, though, it's a whole different story. They're regular people."
In fact, Locke's reason for considering Stanford has a great deal to do with that academic reputation.
"Honestly, that's what attracted me to Stanford," Locke said. " spoke with one of the instructors in Computer Science. He was showing me one of the experiments they've put together, which is essentially a computer-controlled robot with a TV monitor attached to it. It's basically a TV on wheels, and it's hooked up to a computer that has a built-in camera on it, so the robot will show your face on it. They told me a story that Coach Shaw used it one time to be in a coaches meeting when he was in Atlanta, and it freaked all the coaches out. So that was all really cool."
Locke wants to major in either Mechanical Engineering or Computer Science, which are both very rigorous majors that even students who aren't balancing football have difficulty finishing.
"That's why I am always talking with academic support people," Locke said. "Each visit, I focus on the academic support systems and meeting with the academic advisors. Neither of those is an easy major, and I like to stay on top of things. Who wants to be a football player if you're stressed out over academics? So, academics and the support for me will be the most important thing."
The last stop on his West Coast swing was UCLA, where he met with the coaches and talked about his role on the team if he decided to attend.
"Again, they're another school with a very family-oriented atmosphere," Locke said. "I talked to some of the players first, and then Coach Mora and Coach Meat, we were all in a meeting room. They showed me how I fit into their system, with their needs based on the depth chart, and showed me film of how I could fit in if I decided to come.
"They also showed me where the football facility would come in and what it would be like, and that was cool. I think they said it would be finished in 2015, which is when I'd start there, so that was very good to hear."
As for where specifically he might fit into UCLA's defense, the coaching staff said he could wear many hats.
"They told me they see me as a guy to play everything," Locke said. "The coaches brought up one of my NFTC films and one of my coverage clips and put it all together with their practice film to show me how I could fit in. They said, 'Ok, here's you at cornerback, here's why I think you can play here,' or 'Ok, here's strong safety, this is why I think you can play here.' They just said, 'we see you as a guy who can do everything, we can put you all over the field.' He kind of compared me to a current player, Ishmael Adams, who plays corner and nickel. The coaches told me this is why they think I'm so valuable, because you never know what's going to happen in the course of a game, and having a guy like me who can move between positions is so valuable."
Afterward, Locke took a campus tour, and he liked how close all the football facilities, dorms, and academic buildings were to one another.
"Everybody is in one area," Locke said. "You have to pass over Bruin Walk to get anywhere, and you see everybody there. To me, I feel like I already know where everything is. I love the coaching staff. I love the school, and I love the academics. So the decision is going to be a very hard one."
Locke said all the visits were about equal, in his estimation, which is going to make the decision that much harder.
"I have to sit down and write down the pros and cons of every school," Locke said. "To me, there are really no bad decisions. I just need to see who has the most pros."
He said he'll likely make his decision prior to his senior season.
Locke Visits the West Coast
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