Devin Asiasi was one of the biggest names in recruiting last season. He has already made an impact at Michigan, and he thinks other West Coasters need to see what’s out there.
And as the former California prep star waits to see the next surprise Midwest lifestyle brings him, he isn’t waiting around to make an impact on the field.
The freshman tight end has never seen a drop of snow, and as we near the holiday season, he is both nervous and ready for every West Coast kid’s biggest fear – winter. But any nerves he had about making his grab are clearly behind him.
Asiasi made his first collegiate catch a big one, catching a touchdown Sep. 24 against Penn State. Running a simple 3-yard route, Asiasi and grabbed a pass actually intended for Jehu Chesson. It surely won’t be the first Asiasi grabs this season, and will be one of many he catches in his career at Michigan.
But Michigan didn’t always look like the choice for Asiasi. The Wolverines, even in mid-January, were thought to have no shot at the Concord De La Salle star. The word was that he and lifelong best friend/teammate Boss Tagaloa were a package deal. If you landed one, you got the other; but you couldn’t land one without the other. UCLA was in the driver’s seat late, even three days before signing day the Bruins were thought to be the destination. Ultimately, however, Tagaloa picked the Bruins; Asiasi is now a Wolverine. Here’s a look back at Asiasi’s recruitment, and his transition to becoming a Midwest resident.
High school: Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
Senior Dimensions: 6-foot-3, 270-pounds
Position: TE, DE
Ranking: 4-star, No. 3 tight end, No. 12 in California, and No. 75 overall
Other notable offers: Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, UCLA, USC.
Commitment date: Signing day
The prep work
Catching an immediate eye: “As soon as I saw his junior highlight film the day I was hired,” Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said when asked about when he knew Asiasi would make an impact at Michigan. “He was the first recruit I ever offered when I was hired here. He was physical, and capable of playing very nasty. He’s 270 pounds, it’s a rare physical combination. It was a no-brainer to try and make him part of the group.”
A top priority: “It was kind of steady,” Harbaugh said about Asiasi’s recruitment. “He was the kind of guy who could have gone wherever he wanted. It was all about always being there, and building that relationship over time. I always loved him, and it was a long time, but luckily it paid off in the end. In the category of tight ends that he falls under, there was no doubt he was our top (target).”
Jim Harbaugh visits class: “I was in a basketball fundamentals class, and (Jim) Harbaugh came to the class with me,” Asiasi said. “He played one-on-one with my teacher. Harbaugh stopped in the game because he thought the teacher was fouling too much.”
A late decision, but a right decision: “When I came on my visit, (current Michigan starting TE) Jake Butt hosted me. The way he was acting towards his teammates, everyone around him, and how everyone knew him but he was so humble,” Asiasi said. “After talking with Michigan, getting down to the nitty gritty, I decided this was something I wanted to be a part of.”
The decision to leave home: “The whole environment is different. You can tell if you’re from the West Coast, that football means more out here. Football is everything to this school,” Asiasi said on a reason why he was OK with leaving home. “The whole spotlight is on football here. I’ve been adjusting to the attention, and trying to fit in. I think I’ve done a good job.”
Jim Harbaugh’s impact: “Harbaugh had a lot of influence in my decision,” Asiasi said. “The fact he uses his tight ends a lot just made it that much better.”
Leaving his best friend: “We just made the best choice for ourselves. WE know we had the same main factors: Football, family and God. Our hearts were in different places, but we were happy for each other,” Asiasi said. In explaining the moment he and Tagaloa, a defensive lineman, realized they would be going to different schools, Asiasi said, “We sat down, said at the count of three say where we’re going, and we let our choices go. It is what it is. Every week I send him a good-luck text, and we talk all the time. People say our pact ended, but our pact didn’t end. We have a brotherhood; we’re brothers until we die.”
The fast-pace, signing-day decision: “I felt like everything was on my time. Everything was going by what I was saying, nothing was forced or last minute,” Asiasi said. “You don’t want to approach something like (college) as a last-minute life decision.”
Becoming a Wolverine
Jake Butt, mentor: “Jake has been like a big brother to me,” Asiasi said. “He’s been a real helpful tool for me, I look up to him like a big brother.”
A lasting relationship with Jay Harbaugh: “He has a good knack of connecting with younger guys, since he’s a younger coach,” Asiasi said of his position coach. “Having a relationship with him, talking things other than football, and it really helped that I could talk about things with him other than football.”
Practicing with stars: “It’s hard,” Asiasi said of going against guys in practice like senior DE Chris Wormley. “Going against 6-foot-5, runs a fast 40 – it’s hard. But it’s good for you, it makes you better. You’re not going against a scrub, you’re going against Chris Wormley and (fellow senior DE) Taco Charlton, it makes you better.”
The myth of snow: “I was here in January when it was really cold, but it was just raining,” Asiasi said. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m kind of scared. I’ve never seen snow, played in snow – I’ve never really experienced the cold.”
The first touchdown: “Having my first catch for a touchdown, having 110,000 scream for me, and my teammates right behind me. It was almost surreal,” Asiasi said of his catch against Penn State. “It was a surprise to me.”
Final words: “Be open,” he advised to other West Coast players. “There are a lot of things out there in the world you can’t see in the West Coast. It’s a blessing to be out here. If you’re from the West Coast, you want to stay in Southern California, or Northern, or Washington. Try to be different, try to be someone who is trying to make something else with other people.”
Asiasi is the only Michigan tight end other than Butt to score a touchdown this season. From the West Coast beaches to the coming Midwest blizzards, Asiasi is making the adjustments, and has made his presence known early. This certainly won’t be the last you hear of him, either.