This week, Jarvis Stewart had a decision to make.
The Largo running back, considered one of the best in the area, carefully pondered his college options, trying to find the right balance.
Several factors were weighed: proximity, familiarity and playing time.
Those were some of the reasons Stewart decided to put the brakes on the recruiting process by committing to USF.
“The coaching staff has treated me well," Stewart said. “They’re like family to me.”
Coaches constantly reference their team as family.
In Stewart’s case, USF coach Willie Taggart is family.
Stewart said Taggart is a distant cousin. Taggart’s close ties with Stewart’s family ultimately won out as Stewart picked the Bulls over several other schools, including West Virginia.
“West Virginia was up there as my top school for a while,” Stewart said. “But I just really like coach Taggart and the program. He knows a lot of people in the community and is close with them.”
After battling injuries his first two seasons, Stewart had a breakthrough performance as a junior, rushing for 1,186 yards and 17 touchdowns this past year.
His recruiting had just started heating up with offers from six schools, including Cincinnati, Indiana, Kentucky and UCF.
But the gravitational pull toward his hometown team was too hard to ignore.
“I really wanted to be close to home,” Stewart said. “I don’t want to go anywhere else. I’m sure I might get more offers and schools will be competing for me. But I don’t think anything is going to change my mind. Alabama could offer, and I would still want to stay.
“USF is my lockdown choice.”