Tampa Catholic wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers, the bay area's top recruit from the class of 2016, knew his heart was in Auburn the moment he stepped on campus for his official visit Jan. 15. Still, wanting to give the decision-making process the thought and consideration it deserved, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior didn't tell anybody — not even his family — for another three weeks.
But Tuesday night, on the eve of an appointment with ESPN cameras on national signing day, Craig-Myers sent a text to his two brothers, his uncle and his grandmother, letting them know of his decision.
"I just felt like I needed to get it off my chest," said the four-star recruit, who narrowed his more than 48 offers to Auburn and North Carolina last week. "With them being family, I felt like they should be the first ones to know."
Even then, one important person was left out.
Craig-Myers waited until signing his letter of intent at 7:45 a.m. on Wednesday to let his mother, Nicki Craig, in on the secret.
"I kept saying, 'I've been here with you through this whole thing, and then you're not going to tell me?' " said Craig, laughing. "And he's like, 'No, mom, because you're going to get excited and tell everybody.' "
That part was Craig-Myers' job.
At 11 a.m, with a crowd of hundreds looking on at Tampa Catholic, Craig-Myers took an Auburn Tiger statue out from under the table — a souvenir he found at a Dade City antique shop more than six months ago — to announce his decision.
Craig-Myers originally committed to Auburn in July 2014, but he reopened his recruitment that following spring. The Tigers still stuck by him, Craig-Myers said, asking his mother's permission to continue recruiting him even after he began considering other schools.
"It means a lot, because some coaches, they'll bash you, they'll just back off you. But they actually did it the right way and came up to my mom," Craig-Myers said. "My mom's important in my life, and if they respect her, they respect me."
Craig-Myers spent much of his high school career in the public eye, especially after he transferred to Tampa Catholic from Pasco in January 2014. He broke his fibula in the first game of his junior year and missed the remainder of that season, but he made up for lost time as a senior with the region finalist Crusaders, racking up 1,018 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns, adding six interceptions on defense.
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is already impressed by his newest player.
"Nate Craig's a guy that we recruited for a long time. He's a big, athletic guy," Malzahn said on ESPNU. "We really think he's a difference-maker. He's a guy that can come in and play early and play well early."
The day only got better for Auburn after Craig-Myers' announcement. Less than two hours later, his younger brother, three-star Pasco High cornerback Jayvaughn Myers, also committed to Auburn, turning the War Eagles into a family affair.
"It would be a dream come true. Not too many brothers in the same class go to the same school," Craig-Myers said of playing with his brother. "That would definitely be a dream … sharing a dorm room, having somebody there, going through it with you to lean on."
But as evidenced by Wednesday's signing-day festivities at TC, having people to support him has never been a problem for Craig-Myers. During his decision he was flanked by Craig and older brother Josh Johnson, a former Purdue and Canadian Football League cornerback. Behind them was the entire Tampa Catholic student body, cheering his name and rooting him on.
As Craig-Myers waited in silence for the broadcast to begin, he lowered his head and said a little prayer. He was shaking, his mother said, and she could tell he was nervous. But right then, she paused for a moment to take in the scene.
"I got teary when we were just sitting there, waiting and waiting," Craig said. "I was just looking around, seeing all the people, and I just felt the family. It all just felt so good."
When all was said and done, Craig-Myers said it was Auburn's family atmosphere that made it the perfect fit. So finally, in front of his existing family, Craig-Myers beamed as he made it a little bit bigger.
Contact Kelly Parsons at [email protected]. Follow @_kellyparsons.