By Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune Staff Reporter
February 1, 2006, 8:33 PM CST
He sported a muted yellow shirt, complemented with a blue and yellow striped tie. He donned a school cap with his nickname—"Double D"—embroidered on the back. If Demetrius Jones were an any more resolute Notre Dame recruit, he would have shown up Wednesday wearing green knickers and a "Weis Guy" T-shirt.
Yet all that didn't stop an estimated 15 "big-time" schools from calling the touted Morgan Park quarterback recently to make sure he was, um, comfortable with his decision.
"Even up until yesterday," Jones said at a Public League football letter of intent signing day event. "A lot of people, that's how they think: It ain't over until you sign."
Maybe the attempted poaching of a star like Jones—rivals.com's No. 1 prospect in Illinois—might not register a shrug. But for players with less cachet the lesson was the same: Conclusions drawn in the recruiting process can flip dramatically in the time it takes to make a phone call.
On Wednesday, Hinsdale Central linebacker Brett Morse and Fremd quarterback Scott Tolzien faxed letters of intent to Iowa and Wisconsin, respectively. Less than a week earlier, neither school had offered a scholarship to either player.
Morse was committed to Central Michigan—until his coach pulled him out of class Friday and told him to call Iowa assistant Lester Erb, at which point the offer came.
Tolzien's best option appeared to be to pay his way to Toledo for a semester until a scholarship became available. Then, also on Friday, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema invited Tolzien to join the Badgers.
"If you're a prime-time, blue-chip recruit, you're going to be fine in whatever situation," Tolzien said. "The coaches are going to make you feel like gold and you're going to have so many opportunities. … I was more of a second-tier guy, not one of those prestigious blue-chip guys, so it's harder for me. Coaches can manipulate you a little bit, all while they're waiting for that guy who can throw it through a brick wall."
Said Morse: "If you end up getting an offer and like the place, commit. If you have to de-commit, de-commit. It stinks, it's a tough thing to do, but you have to do it. It happens all the time. That's the business part of it."
Morse said the call to announce his change of heart was the most difficult thing he ever has done. But he didn't have the luxury of waiting that was afforded Morgan Park tackle Ramone Johnson. Johnson didn't decide between Illinois and Tennessee until last week, specifically because his first decision would be his final one.
"I didn't want to commit early and have to de-commit at the end," Johnson said after signing with the Volunteers. "That's not my style. I wanted to make sure wherever I committed to, I would stay loyal."
Likewise, Jones said the recruiting process—even the attempted subterfuge of his Notre Dame plans—helped him understand the necessity of telling people "no."
That's easy for prized prospects to say, not so easy for second- or third-choices."I was looking for an opportunity, and I got my opportunity," Tolzien said. "Now it's up to me to prove myself, and prove everyone else wrong."
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