Upon finishing my enormous breakfast at the hotel, I made my way to the parking garage and got into the car with my dad. I could tell that he was just as anxious as I was. There wasn't much said in the car ride to the stadium, as he knew that this was most likely my last run at my dream just as much as I did. We pulled up to the stadium, he wished me luck, and I made my way to the entrance.
If there was one thing that I remember most about football, it would be the smell of the stadium. Of both the schools I had been to, the smell was exactly the same. Most would think it was the smell of sweat and mildew, but that was far from it. There was something almost artificial about it. It was a smell of a newer building. A smell you only get when a building has been empty or vacant. It became something that I had associated with pain, exhaustion, and despise. My mind was filled with doubt the second I open those doors and was brought back to those memories.
As I walked through the door, I was greeted by the director of recruiting. I introduced myself as he handed me my name tag for the day. We made small talk as we walked down the stairs to the meeting rooms. I was to sit in during one of the defensive lineman meetings and meet my potential position coach.
Following the meeting, I met with the defensive line coach. He seemed incredibly optimistic about my role on the team. He said he was impressed with my high school film that I had sent in, and was excited to have me as part of the team. He was also impressed my stature. I left the room with a feeling of immense excitement as well as a feeling of pride. It was one of the few times I was truly proud of being the size that I had become. I did my best to keep my poker face as I was led on a tour of the stadium while the players got suited up for practice.
I walked outside with some of the current defensive lineman on the team as they carried their helmet and pads to the designated practice area. They all were very receptive to the idea of me joining the team. I would be one of the larger lineman they had, and I was soon to show them that I was no doubt the strongest, but I maintained a friendly attitude toward them throughout the day. They were going to be my new family if I chose to play for the school after all.
As practice went on, I watched the players run through drills assuring myself that I could beat them out for a starting spot. Just then, I saw a man approaching me out of the corner of my eye. It was the head coach, Mr. Tommy Tuberville himself.
During the entirety of my time at West Virginia, there were only a handful of words exchanged between myself and Dana Holgorson. It was his first year as a head coach when I arrived, and as an 18 year old kid I found him to be exponentially intimidating. The relationship between us was nonexistent.
So to have the Coach Tuberville approach me on his own was something new for me. I felt a feeling I had not experienced ever before in my time as a college athlete. A feeling of welcomeness. A feeling of being wanted. I can vividly remember him shaking my hand, and in his southern accent he said, "I would be honored if you made the decision to come play for us."
That resonated with me. The head coach, the man who had his own golf cart to drive around practice with his name written on the roof, wanted me to play for his team. As practice came to a close, I knew that if there was anywhere I was going to play the next spring, it would be in Cincinnati. It was only a matter of time.
As my dad picked me up from the stadium and we made our way back to Chicago, I knew that there was hope of being a break out college athlete at UC. As time went on, I kept on touch with the director of recruiting. I made the decision that I would be joining the team for summer camp that August. I had already been accepted to the university, all I had to do was to continue working hard in the weight room and finish out the rest of my time at community college.