As part of the Next Generation series that looks at the players about to join the Hawkeyes, Land of 10 Iowa reporters Scott Dochterman and Bobby La Gesse examine the recruiting process for members of the class. Up on this Sunday is Dowling Catholic 4-star defensive end John Waggoner.
John Waggoner expected to shut down his recruitment for his senior football season and then take his time over the next few months to pick a program.
He never had the chance.
The early signing period, initiated with Waggoner and the Class of 2018, changed the way winter recruiting takes place leading up to Signing Day.
Teams expected most of their recruiting class to sign in December rather than in February. After winning a state title with Dowling Catholic High School (West Des Moines, Iowa), the 4-star defensive end had about a month until the first signing period.
In reality, Waggoner had less time than that to find out which programs from his impressive offer list, including Ohio State and Michigan, were still recruiting him and where he wanted to go.
“It didn’t really hit us the situation we were in until the end of football,” his mother Julie Waggoner said. “We didn’t think there was any real rush. I don’t think we felt that, boom, we really had to make a choice until we started to talk to programs again.”
Land of 10: Why did you decide to stop your recruiting during your senior season and pick it back up in November?
Waggoner: I had taken a look at most of the places I had wanted to and then I realized the magnitude of the decision and put it off a little bit. In the season, it’s hard to make a decision. I kind of held it off to focus on the team throughout that period of time.
Land of 10: Did you have contact with Iowa during your season?
Waggoner: Probably once a week or once every couple of weeks. They would wish me luck. We stayed in contact.
Land of 10: Your recruitment blew up in the spring and summer of 2017. Was there a point when you realized how big it was?
Waggoner: There was a week where I got I think three or four offers. It was Penn State, it was Oklahoma and LSU; I think it was one day. That was when I went, ‘This is insane.’
Land of 10: How did that change your view on recruiting?
Waggoner: It kind of made me view it like anything can happen in the process. I was on my toes.
Land of 10: What was it like when you reopened your recruitment again in November?
Waggoner: A lot of schools that were recruiting me, everyone was trying to get as many people signed by December as possible. I think it speeds things up a little bit.
Land of 10: Teams came to visit you once the end of the calendar year recruiting window opened. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz visited on Nov. 29. Was part of that conversation about the defensive line not being a priority in the 2018 class?
Waggoner: Yeah. He knows I was aware it’s not a position of need at this time. He said I still had the option if I wanted it.
Land of 10: So how did you leave things?
Waggoner: I don’t know that I had much thought right after the conversation. I kind of slept on it for a few days and then I ended up talking to Coach Ferentz over the weekend. It was still the place I wanted to be.
Land of 10: So there were no thoughts on your end of needing to make a decision immediately?
Waggoner: I don’t think that they forced my hand. I knew I had other places I could have gone. I just knew at the end of the day it was a good time to make a decision.
Land of 10: You called Ferentz four days after you visited. Is that when you committed?
Waggoner: I told him on Sunday I wanted to be a Hawkeye. He said that [defensive line] Coach [Reese] Morgan would come up and see me in a day or two just to make sure we were on the same page everywhere and then we talked about my official visit [the next weekend].
Land of 10: What made you commit then?
Waggoner: Just the feeling of the program, the culture, the blue-collar mentality that they bring. I just had a good relationship with the coaches. I felt like it was the place to be.
Land of 10: Were you relieved it was all over?
Waggoner: Yeah, definitely was a relief to know that there was going to be a spot for me and everything was going to work out.
Land of 10: You played your recruitment close to the vest. Was Iowa your No. 1 team throughout the process?
Waggoner: Throughout the fall that was my feeling.
Land of 10: You made your commitment public after Morgan visited on Dec. 5. Other programs, including Minnesota and Nebraska, wanted to visit you that day. Was it tough not saying anything?
Waggoner: It was hard with the other teams wanting to visit, but I was excited. It was exciting to kind of get the news out.
Land of 10: What was it like for you in late November and early December, specifically between those days when Ferentz visited you and you committed to Iowa?
Waggoner: The process, it can be overwhelming sometimes. I knew this was still the place I wanted to be, so why not get it over with and focus on basketball season?