All from Florida, 23 agree to play for Howard Schnellenberger's Owls starting in 2001.
Florida Atlantic will not play a game until Sept. 8, 2001 against Cornell. For the record, that's 582 days from today.
That, however, hasn't stopped the school from hiring a coach (Howard Schnellenberger), designing uniforms (red, white and blue with an owl as a mascot) and, thanks to Wednesday's National Signing Day, from picking up players.
Who needs a stadium anyway?
The Owls used the first day of the signing period to get commitments from 23 players as they begin to fill a squad that will take the field at the beginning of those players' sophomore years.
"We have a great recruiting class," Schnellenberger said. "I'm extremely happy. Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would get 23 kids of this talent."
Not surprisingly, the list has a very local feel as the Boca Raton-based school drew all but four players from surrounding counties. Every signee is from Florida.
Florida Atlantic will play 10 intrasquad games this fall. The Owls plan to join Division I in 2003.
Location, the chance to play with Schnellenberger, a South Florida legend after leading the University of Miami to a national championship, and the opportunity to start a new program were just some of the reasons players signed with a team that only exists on paper and pretty flow charts.
"James originally wanted to go away from home," Boca Raton High coach Brian Dodds said about offensive lineman James Ray. "But after talking with the FAU coaching staff, he decided to stay at home."
Dade and Palm Beach counties produced eight players each and Broward chipped in with three. The only non-locals came from Vero Beach, Sebastian, Tallahassee and Bradenton.
One surprise is the caliber of some of the schools the recruits passed up to stay home and play football.
For instance, Miami Northwestern defensive end Arthur Cave denied West Virginia, Miami and Virginia Tech to play at FAU.
About 100 supporters assembled for a celebration in front of the FAU football module, a glorified trailer that houses a model locker room, helmets, uniforms and blueprints for the future athletics home, the Tom Oxley Center.
The Owls got some strength at the skill positions by signing quarterback Garrett Jahn, a first-team All-State and USA Today honorable mention selection, and Adrian Jackson, a defensive back from Pompano Beach Ely. Besides guiding his team to the state final and leading the state with 14 interceptions, Jackson is a Division-I prospect in basketball.
"This is absolutely rewarding," Schnellenberger said. "It's great to finally see this program take on some human dimension. This is going to give a huge shot in the arm to the whole process of building this program."
_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.
Arthur Cave, DL, 6-3, 270, Miami (Northwestern); Eddie Dunbar, TE, 6-3, 235, Oakland Park (Northwest); Jack Fenelon, DB, 5-10, 175, Delray Beach (Atlantic); Mario Fernandez, QB, 6-4, 195, Hialeah; Yrvins Guerrier, LB, 6-1, 210, North Miami; Tyrone Higgins, SS, 6-2, 195, Palm Beach Gardens; Robert Hunnicutt, OL, 6-3, 268, Miami (Sunset); Anthony Jackson, RB, 5-9, 190, Boca Raton (Olympic Heights); Adrian Jackson, SS, 6-0, 170, Pompano Beach (Ely); Garrett Jahn, QB, 6-3, 190, Tallahassee (Leon); Dekolan James, RB, 5-10, 190, Miami (Carol City); Mauratae Johnson, DB, 6-2, 190, Riviera Beach (Suncoast); Kevin Ketchum, OL, 6-5, 270, Miami (Palmetto); Jamaal Knowles, DE, 6-3, 210, Vero Beach (Sebastian River); Doug Parker, RB, 5-10, 205, Delray Beach (Atlantic); Thomas Parker, WR, 6-2, 190, Miami (Northwestern); James Ray, OL, 6-4, 280, Boca Raton; Cory Reddick, DB, 5-7, 170, Boynton Beach (Santaluces); Dave Richards, DE, 6-4, 265, Delray Beach (Spanish River); Ramon Rickards, LB, 6-2, 245, Miami (Killian); Craig Roundtree, DB, 5-9, 167, Bradenton (Southeast); Larry Taylor, RB, 5-7, 165, Sebastian; Joe Walker, LB, 5-11, 210, Deerfield Beach.