National Signing Day: What's most important to Florida high school football's Class of 2021?
Perhaps no decision looms larger in the life of a teenager than where to go to college.
Do you focus on academics or the culture of a school? Do you prioritize the next four years or the 40 years after? Do you look somewhere close to home or get as far away as possible — or somewhere close enough that you can still go home and do laundry on the weekends.
For high school student-athletes, they weigh a whole different set of questions — and it starts a very basic question: Who wants me?
Once they have legitimate offers, they consider factors such as coaching staff, playing time and scheme, athletic facilities, a program’s reputation. All of that is in addition to the previous list.
USA TODAY Network reporters spoke to senior student athletes from around the state to find out why they chose to sign with the respective colleges.
Keegan Davis (Treasure Coast TE/DL)
David signed with Florida international during the early signing period
"Being closer to home was really my goal when I was a ninth grader, so just having that opportunity I kind of took it."
Ashton Gillotte (Boca Raton DE)
Gillotte signed with Louisville during the early signing period and enrolled in January
“Location. A lot of my family is from Ohio. Most of my family moved back to Ohio, so it’s a good place for my family to be close, but not too close. If I ever need anything or I want to go anywhere for the holidays, it’s a three-hour drive, and I can fly home to see my dad (in South Florida).
“Location-wise it’s very, very close to family, and the city is actually really nice. I have done research and been in the city, and there’s still things I haven't seen. But besides that, they immediately got me connected with the school of engineering … to see what the education would be like. … Sports don’t come before schools, but in terms of football, I really like their coaching staff. I talked to Coach (Cort) Dennison and Coach (Mark) Ivey during my recruiting process, and they are just really good guys.”
Dink Jackson (Eau Gallie S/LB)
Jackson signed with Ole Miss during the early signing period and enrolled in January.
“I picked Ole Miss because of the bond I have with the coaches and the ability that I have to come in and play first year, as soon as I come in as a freshman, as me early enrolling. I felt like it was the place my heart chose. I didn’t choose it, my heart chose it.”
Caleb Johnson (Ocala-Trinity Catholic OL)
Johnson signed with Notre Dame during the early signing period and enrolled on Monday
“We just all came together and talked about it as a family and just came to the conclusion that Notre Dame was going to be the best fit for us and the best opportunity to make me better.
“They’re an O-Line powerhouse and the guys they have right now more or less teach the younger guys to be better, and that’s the best coaching you can get.”
TJ Lockley (Daytona Beach-Mainland ATH)
Lockley signed with East Carolina during the early signing period
"The primary factor of me picking East Carolina was the coaching staff. I felt like I was their only priority since day 1 at the slot position. I was the only slot they signed and, what was most important, was (being) constantly in contact every day on FaceTime and me seeing the campus."
Kimo Makaneole (Niceville OL)
Makaneole committed to LSU on New Year’s Day and will sign with the Tigers on Wednesday.
“The most important thing was to be close to home and LSU felt like a second home for me. As soon as I stepped on campus, it just felt right."
Luther McCoy (St. Johns-Creekside DT)
McCoy signed with Minnesota during the early signing period.
“Coach (PJ) Fleck sold it to me. They just let me know that the program is where it’s supposed to be and they have a good program for biomedical sciences and engineering, which is what I want to do in college.”
Dramarian McNulty (Niceville DB)
McNulty is committed to Western Carolina and will sign with the Catamounts on Wednesday.
"Playing time, a good nursing program and a definitive commitment. I want to be an impact immediately. I want to be able to move up the depth chart early.”
Timar Rogers (Deland LB)
Rogers signed with Mississippi State during the early signing period.
"I just felt MSU was a good fit for me and my family. I wanted to go to a school that wanted me for real, not a school that just offered because everyone else (did). There wasn't one morning where I woke without a text from a coach from MSU. They made me feel like it was home.”
Trevonte Rucker (Ocala-Vanguard WR)
Rucker committed to Jackson State in January and will sign with the Tigers on Wednesday.
“With all that’s going on in the world, I wanted to do this. They kept it real on the phone when I talked to them. They trusted in me, and I trust in them.”
Andrew Weisz (North Palm Beach-Benjamin OL)
Weisz signed with Yale during the early signing period
“As soon as they started recruiting me, I knew they were serious and real. It wasn’t just recruiting talk. They wanted me to be there. … It’s hard to talk, especially without in-person visits, but Yale made it 100 percent official from day one.”
Chris Boyle, Joshua Kimble, Jon Santucci, Seth Stringer and Phillip Suits contributed to this report.