Jimbo Fisher apologized in advance that if his cellular phone rang, he would have to cut short his first news conference as Florida State's head football coach.
"If it's the right guy," he said with a widening grin, "I'm going to walk out of here. I promise you that."
Okay. His phone probably wasn't going to ring.
Vibrate, sure. But ring? Not in that setting.
Still, the witticism spoke volumes about the singularity of purpose that recruiting holds for Fisher. Identifying and wooing the right kind of athletes is a must for any coach, but it's a job that has demanded even more of his attention and passion given the questions that were converging into a perfect storm with the uncertainty before Bobby Bowden's departure.
"It looked like going into the season, they were really setting themselves up to do well, really well, but once the season started to unfold, they lost traction with a lot of kids," said Jamie Newberg, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "There was so much noise surrounding the program, and it just got ugly."
"There's much more of a viciousness in recruiting in the South than there is almost anywhere else," CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "When Bowden was the head coach, people attacked him — that he was old, he was not in touch."
So, no matter how you feel about outgoing president T.K. Wetherell's decision not to renew Bowden's contract, the accelerated move to Fisher muted some of that noise.
Within days of Bowden's announcement, Fisher received oral commitments from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast linebacker Jeff Luc, two of the nation's top prospects. (Luc is already enrolled in classes.)
"Once they got past the Florida game and the decision was made that Bobby Bowden was no longer going to be the head coach and it was finally Jimbo Fisher, there was clarity there, and I think that was enormous," Newberg said.
The Seminoles now seem poised for a top 10 class, perhaps in the top five if they land a few more heralded prospects by signing day Feb. 3 from a group including athlete/receiver Christian Green and offensive lineman Chaz Green (teammates at Tampa Catholic), defensive end Corey Lemonier (Hialeah) and safety/receiver Jeremy Deering (Leto).
"It wasn't that they didn't want to play for Coach Bowden," Fisher said recently. "Other people were doing what they're supposed to do, trying to create doubt in someone's mind about where they want to go. I think of it if it were my son. When there's doubt, it's hard to send a family member into something when you don't know exactly, 100 percent about how it's going to go."
Joyner said he grew up loving FSU and wanted to play for Bowden and defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, so, despite playing coy with the media, he "pretty much knew" where he would be signing all along. Still, meeting with Fisher in person and then talking to him about the makeup of his staff had an effect.
"Coach Fisher's a great guy," Joyner said. "He told me the truth, even before he let the media know, that Coach (Mark) Stoops was going to be my position coach and the defensive coordinator. You look at his resume and see all the guys he sent to the NFL in the first round and all the guys he coached; at Arizona, he had an All-American and Thorpe winner (Antoine Cason in 2007). With my ability and my hunger for the game, I can just imagine what he can do for me and for the program."
To say the least, he's excited about starting something special again in Tallahassee.
"There's some opportunities there for some of these guys immediately, and I think they see that," Fisher said. "And there's some guys who can be impact guys. That's been very good. We have to keep it going. It's not over. Those other schools aren't going to give up. They're going to fight and claw and do everything they've got to do to get them back."
So if his phone rings or vibrates, forgive him.
He's going to take the call. Promise.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347.