OUR APPROACH TO National Signing Day 2014 was to get as many faces and exclusive content to our readers. Hopefully, you all saw that. We had all but two recruits (late flip Blake McClain and JUCO transfer Jhaustin Thomas) in a face-to-face meeting Wednesday, and all of that content is on GoGamecocks.com.
My assignment was to head to Atlanta to meet USC’s new Peach State recruits — one, because I’m familiar with the run, having done it the past two years as well; two, because I was brave (foolhardy?) enough to volunteer for it.
It started great. As I pulled into my hotel Tuesday, the tire pressure light comes on in the rental. That prompted a late-night run to Hartsfield airport, where I had to take full advantage of Hertz’s 24-hour service.
So with that taken care of, how could anything else go wrong? Here’s how my Signing Day went:
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6:22 a.m.: Alarm rings and I wonder where my poster of Dale Murphy is. I never get used to sleeping in hotels.
7:30 a.m.: Shove something edible down (why does “continental breakfast” usually mean “wide selection of toast?”) and hit the road. First stop — Lithonia, Ga., where I’m hoping to talk to Wesley Green. He’s not set to announce until 5 p.m., but I have a hunch I might not have to wait.
Supplies — fully charged laptop, cell phone, portable wireless hotspot, video camera. Auxiliary electric outlet. Umbrella. Rain jacket. Printed maps in case GPS goes on the fritz. Extra recorder batteries. Three Diet Cokes.
Let’s do this.
8:17 a.m.: Green shows up. I tell him I’m not interested in stealing his thunder, but I need to get some stuff in case he does what many expect. He’s wearing a garnet tie and obliges me with what he likes about USC, why he de-committed from the Gamecocks in September, his friendship with Bryson Allen-Williams (BAW), etc. I mention that Allen-Williams got the full-court press from Georgia over the weekend. “He did the same to me,” Green says with a smile. I think USC fans will be happy later this afternoon.
8:20 a.m.: Ahead of schedule, I decide to see if I can twice get lucky and get Allen-Williams before his actual ceremony. Take note, kids — if we can talk to you before you do the public thing, we prefer it.
8:21 a.m. Crank the car and it’s at the guitar solo in “You Shook Me All Night Long.” I use the steering wheel as frets and right thigh as strings while driving.
9:32 a.m.: Ran into some of the other USC beat writers at Cedar Grove High. We all get BAW at the same time. No mystery as he’s decked out in all black with a garnet-and-black print bow tie and vest. I ask him if he’s going to recycle it for prom.
Great kid. Very personable. I can see why USC certainly didn’t mind him calling other kids to try and recruit them to USC. He says he feels great about Green coming to Columbia. I up Green’s chances every hour.
9:34 a.m. I have sustained an oozing paper cut on my right middle finger. This will severely affect my communication with other drivers.
10:25 a.m.: I finally hit traffic on 285 and get out of it to hit traffic on 85. Once that clears, I notice that 85 Southbound resembles Bluff Road an hour after the game ends. My next two stops take place along 85 Southbound. Crikey.
11:32 p.m.: Boy, was Dante Sawyer entertaining. He grabbed a Clemson commitment from the crowd so he could five-bomb him in a photo. He’s pretty quiet but did find out something interesting about him that I’ll address at a later date. Can’t give away everything.
12:01 p.m.: Back across north Atlanta to talk to D.J. Smith at Stars and Strikes, which if I wasn’t working, I would bankrupt. Easy drive, because of my audible to plan a different route than the one MapQuest proposed. I madly cackled for the 40-minute drive at 88 mph about what a genius I am. No Smokeys decided to check me, either.
12:02 p.m.: Amount of electricity used to power New York City on any given day has got to be less than the amount of electricity burned through by sportswriters trying to charge cell phones, laptops, wireless cards and video cameras on National Signing Day.
12:03 p.m.: In a rare break, I decide to bypass eating to crank out two stories and start on a third. Realize I forgot the USC women’s advance for Thursday and dash out a few grafs (sportswriter for “paragraphs”). I realize it could be worse – I could have to work for a living.
1:58 p.m.: Track down Smith. He also feels good about Green signing with USC. Smith says he’s open to playing safety and corner, whichever the coaches need him to play, and that he’s looking forward to creating the next phase of the “Goon Squad” defense.
2:07 p.m. The radio says Jeremy spoke in class today. Every kid I saw today wasn’t in school.
3:03 p.m.: An angel provided me a clear lane through downtown to Woodward Academy and Terry Googer. He’s doing well after a meniscus tear in the state playoffs and said Steve Spurrier has talked to him about playing some Wildcat (Googer played QB this past year). He’ll definitely be a big choice at receiver.
4:38 p.m.: Passed the 285 merge point on I-20 with no delays, ensuring me no traffic for the rest of the drive. Five kids, 10 hours, stops all over Atlanta, didn’t have to get into the carpool lane once. Subsisted on two Diet Cokes. If I had a microphone, it would be dropped.
5:46 p.m.: Green does commit to the Gamecocks. USC did the right thing, letting him have his moment and not releasing his name until he announced. He’ll bring immediate help to a depleted cornerback corps.
8:47 p.m.: Home. National Signing Day comes but once a year, and for this, I am grateful.
As the FBI says — Hurt. Agony. Pain.