Steve Stephens of Fresno (Calif.) Edison placed two different hats on his head to signify his verbal commitment on April 30 – but only one of those hats truly solidified his early college choice.
He first busted out an Oakland Raiders cap and told the crowd at the Passing Down Best of the West Finals “I’m committing to the Raiders,” – drawing laughs and cheers from his teammates and friends. But along came a green and white hat with a duck plastered in the front, alerting his friends, family members and the crowd inside Irvine High’s stadium that he'd be committing to Oregon.
The four-star Stephens, who is Scout’s No. 1 ranked safety out west, chose the Ducks over USC, Oklahoma, Colorado, UCLA and LSU. The 6-foot, 185-pound Stephens said Eugene felt like home to him.
“I just felt like it was the best place for me. I just felt at home,” Stephens told Scout. “You’ve just got to go somewhere where you truly feel at home because you’re not going to be there forever. I just felt it was the place for me.”
His ceremony took no more than 15 minutes, as the Passing Down committee helped organize a platform for him to make his announcement. It’s the first time the 7v7 tournament has ever had a high-profile prospect announce his college choice during tournament play. Stephens has competed at Passing Down events in the last three seasons with DB Guru. He said the 18-team tournament became the ideal place for him to get his college decision out the way.
“It’s the Best of the West and I just felt like it was the perfect environment and situation. There was great weather and I wanted to get it over with,” Stephens said.
After proudly putting on his Ducks hat alongside his father and club coach Tony Perry, Stephens then spent the rest of his day guiding DB Guru to a deep run in the tournament, as the Fresno-based team ended their run in the final four. Stephens used those same ball-hawking skills and closing speed that turned him into a wanted safety in the Football Bowl Subdivision realm.
DB Guru was also a late addition to the Passing Down 18-team party, as some of the regional qualifiers wound up having a schedule/traveling conflict.
Stephens capped a strong weekend for the Ducks, as they received six total verbal commitments. Fellow four-star prospect Jamal Elliot of Durham (NC.) Hillside also committed to the Ducks as a running back.
Lastly, Stephens described himself as a key piece to new head coach Willie Taggart's plan for Oregon.
“He was saying how he wants to turn this thing around and that I would be the perfect puzzle piece to finish it. And I felt that I was the perfect piece as well,” Stephens said.