The speculation surrounding where East Lake’s George Campbell, considered the premier athlete in the Class of 2015, would commit ended 20 months before he can make it official by signing his national letter of intent.
And his announcement came without much of a spectacle — no television crews or hoards of reporters on hand — at least initially.
Campbell offered a toast to the Michigan prospects gathered last weekend in the private room of an on-campus restaurant, pledging his allegiance to the Wolverines. Then the junior declared his college intention via Twitter.
Campbell’s decision to attend Michigan during the program’s annual barbecue for prospective recruits left behind 26 other anxious suitors who have offered a scholarship to the five-star prospect.
“I thought about committing during the plane ride up there,” Campbell said. “I’ve always liked the school, and I feel real comfortable with the coaches and the players. It’s like one big family.”
The news quickly spread, and Campbell’s cell phone shut down three times from the sheer volume of congratulatory text messages and calls.
His decision continued to make headlines this week with reports that Twitter CEO and Michigan booster Dick Costolo committed a minor NCAA violation by conversing with another recruit on Twitter about Campbell’s commitment.
For the coaches and fans of other teams that didn’t land Campbell, envy is a given. Anger and despair are understandable. Bewilderment justifiable.
Still, the infatuation will not end, despite the strict policy instituted by coach Brady Hoke that forbids Michigan recruits from visiting other schools.
Campbell has time before other college coaches start swarming. The NCAA does not allow Division I coaches to contact prospects until July 1 following their junior season.
Rated as the top athlete and third-best prospect in 2015 by ESPN, Campbell is a coveted prospect with offers from nearly every major school, including Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Texas A&M. In the past two months, he assessed the schools, whittling the list to a top 10. His uncle, Ahmad Jackson, offered advice throughout the process.
“George called while he was up in Ann Arbor last week and said he was thinking about committing,” Jackson said. “I told him to think about it for a few hours before doing it because it was a big decision.
“I told him I’m not a fan of kids committing to a school one week, and then decomitting the next. I know schools are still going to call. I mean, it’s a business. But he said he’s firm and this is what he wanted to do.”
The decision to play at a school 1,154 miles away from his hometown was made easier knowing he will be joining Eagles teammate Mason Cole, one of the top left tackles in the 2014 class.
“I had a feeling that George might commit,” said Cole, who made the trip to Ann Arbor with Campbell. “I was just surprised that he did it this early. I think we’re building something special.”
Michigan, which has finished no higher than sixth in the Associated Press top 25 rankings the past decade, pulled in a recruiting class this year that was among best in the nation.
And it keeps getting better.
The Wolverines’ 2014 class could finish in the top three, and the 2015 class already has two of the top 20 players in the nation with the addition of Campbell and Kentucky running back Damien Harris in the past week.
“Michigan has done so well because they’ve been able to get kids that they want on campus early and they’ve made a good impression,” said Corey Long, chief recruiting analyst for Fuel.com. “That’s the way they operate.
“They may have a hard time keeping George because he is so talented and every school in the country wants him. But George seems pretty committed, and if he stays he is the type of kid that can persuade other kids to go there.”