South Carolina may have ultimately won the heart of Stephenson (Ga.) defensive tackle Carlos Hood in one quick exchange with USC assistant Lorenzo Ward.
It was the first time Hood ever met Ward, who has landed commitments from five Atlanta-area players in the Class of 2012.
“He asked, ‘How are you?’ ” Hood recalled. “Then he asked, ‘How much do you weigh?’ When I told him, he shook my hand and told me, ‘You’ve got a scholarship [to USC]’. That kind of shocked me. All the other schools didn’t offer me up front. That was a [cool] thing.”
It might sound like a mostly insignificant conversation, but Hood and many of the other players that Ward has recruited in the rising senior class say that his charismatic personality – even during conversations that take less than 30 seconds – has played a big role in their decision to choose the Gamecocks.
“He’s just like my father,” Hood said. “He helps me out as far as being there for me if I need to talk to him or call him. I can call or talk to him about anything.”
St. Piux X (Ga.) linebacker T.J. Holloman has connected with Ward in a similar fashion.
“When we talk, it’s not even about football,” he said. “It’s about family life, how school is going and what’s going on [this] weekend. It’s just like a family. I just like that it’s not all about football. He can be about football, but we can also talk about my family life, too.”
Hood and Holloman were looking for a father figure when they entered the recruiting process, and Ward’s ability to fill that role has likely played just as significant of a role with other recruits as well.
It was Ward’s late recruiting efforts that helped USC land Jadeveon Clowney earlier this year.
With Shane Beamer having moved on to Virginia Tech, which forced USC to make changes to the areas that some of its assistants recruit, Ward has played an even greater role in the Atlanta area. He’s proving that he can effectively recruit an area that is of the utmost importance to the Gamecocks.
Stephenson coach Ron Gartrell said that Ward has a rare ability to immediately connect with high school players. He’s also an efficient recruiter – saving the time of high school coaches – and doesn’t mind sharing information, Gartrell said.
“I’ve known coach Ward for awhile,” he said. “He’s always been a straightforward, honest guy. What he says happens. I think there’s a trust he brings to Stephenson when he comes. Also, he’s had some successful players, and he’s not afraid to give you some references in terms of kids that have played for him at other places.
“He doesn’t waste a whole lot of time when he comes in the school. When you talk to him, you feel like you’ve known him your entire life. He’s just a trustworthy guy.”
It didn’t take long for Hood’s prep teammate, Stephenson defensive back Kyle Fleetwood, another USC commit, to fully trust in Ward. That was imperative for the 6-foot, 200-pounder, because he will play for Ward in USC’s secondary.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Fleetwood said. “He’s funny. He’s an open guy who’s going to [joke] with you. At the same time, he’s going to buckle down and let you know when he’s serious and when it’s time to shift gears and go into things with a head full of steam. I just thought that was great. Overall, I thought he was a great coach, and I’m glad he was able to take me in.”