As the Times reported early this morning during its online recruiting chat and on Twitter, Lakewood defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. ended month of speculation about where he will play college next season by switching his commitment from Florida State to Florida.
Fowler, one of the top recruits in the area, later joined teammates Jevaris Little (Illinois) and Justin Pierre (Wayne State) at a ceremony at the school, where he said: "(Florida's) where my heart was. "I woke up Tuesday and knew that was the place to be."
As recently as Friday Fowler reiterated he was 100 percent committed to FSU. But his perpetual flirtation with Florida turned out to be more than just that.
Fowler played up to the hoopla surrounding his decision by saying he would pick from a hat to declare his choice. On Tuesday, Fowler said on Facebook that his fans had one more day to convince him whether to go to Florida or FSU.
Fowler thanked FSU coaches for sticking with him but said he liked Will Muschamp and the staff at UF. He also said he flipped to the Gators because he felt he could contribute more at UF and get on the field sooner. FSU's defensive line has already landed two elite recruits this year, include end Mario Edwards and tackle Eddie Goldman.
Fowler's commitment also marked the end of a turbulent season in which he was suspended at the beginning of the season after getting into a heated argument with coaches during a film session and was downgraded from a five-star to four-star recruit by Rivals.com. Last month, Rivals gave Fowler back his fifth star after a strong performance at the Under Armour all-star game.
Like Fowler, fellow teammate Jevaris Little also changed his mind, although not as close to signing day as Fowler. Little signed with Illinois after first leaning toward Toledo. When former Toledo coach Tim Beckman became Illinois' head coach and brought assistant Steve Clinkscales with him, they asked Little to join them. Wednesday, he did. "When Illinois got in the picture it was very exciting,'' Little said. "And then Indiana came into the picture. But I liked the coaches at Illinois and I liked my visit.''
Little was a Times first-team all County selection as a senior.
Lakewood's Justin Pierre didn't get the attention of his two teammates, but he also signed a scholarship on Wednesday. Pierre, a defensive lineman, will attend Wayne State University in Nebraska. "From the start of the year I told my coach that I was going to get a scholarship,'' Pierre said. "I was very motivated. I put everything into it.. It's a blessing.'' Pierre also had interest from Florida Tech, Kent State and Morgan State.
Staff writers John C. Cotey and Rodney Page contributed to this report.