TOLEDO, Ohio – Dallas Gant, the country’s fifth-ranked outside linebacker and a 4-star prospect, has made his college choice.
On Tuesday, in front of students, friends, teachers and a throng of gathered media members at St. John’s Jesuit, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebacker sat with the hats of his five finalists displayed before him.
Ohio State. Home.
Notre Dame. The spiritual draw that a Catholic-school star looks for.
Michigan, just 45 minutes away, with holes in its defense he could fill.
Michigan State, where assistant coach Mike Tressel has recruited Gant for the Spartans longer, and harder, than anyone else.
Penn State. A reborn program with its charismatic and energy-filled head coach, James Franklin.
Today, Gant chose the scarlet and gray cap. He will stay home and play for the Buckeyes.
“It’s just the best place for me,” Gant said of Ohio State, revealing his choice to Land of 10 before making his announcement. “It’s at home; I’m not leaving the state. [Urban] Meyer is a great coach, and a great guy. I’ve developed a great relationship with [Buckeyes linebackers coach Billy] Davis, and there’s several other things about the people and [Columbus] in general.”
The chance to stay home, build a national championship-type recruiting class and have a shot to reach his full potential at a school that churns out NFL-caliber talents and develops well-rounded men. That’s what led Gant, a player that 247Sports.com ranks as the country’s best outside linebacker, to Ohio State.
That doesn’t mean the decision was easy. When it was time to make it, though, Gant trusted his instincts.
“It took a lot of visiting, getting to know a lot of the coaches,” Gant told Land of 10 a week before announcing his decision. “As I went forward and narrowed down the list a little bit, I got to the five finalists and then it was more like three. Toward the end, it was just about where it felt most comfortable to me. I just woke up one morning, and I knew. There was a lot of prayer and talking to my family and stuff.”
One of the things that made the choice more clear is his relationship with Meyer and the Ohio State coaching staff.
“It’s very good,” he said of his bonds with the Ohio State coaches. “I’ve known Coach Meyer for a long while now, and I talk to him more than I talk to other coaches. On the phone or text, it’s helped a lot.”
Hammering home that point was that Tuesday, on his 17th birthday, two Ohio State assistants stopped by the school to help him celebrate.
“It’s great to have them there today,” Gant said. “Coach [Greg] Studrawa, he was there. He has a great relationship with me and both my parents. Also, having Coach Davis there, we’re building a great relationship, so having him there was pretty exciting.”
Gant said he also sees the way Ohio State has developed its linebackers since Meyer’s arrival and realizes that there’s something special brewing in Columbus. That was a major selling point in his decision.
“They turn [the linebackers] to freaks, basically. They get them drafted every year and they do what they need to do,” he said. “The guys come out successful every year, whether it’s football or whatever they do.”
Now an Ohio State commit, Gant said he is looking forward to getting back to his normal life. One that isn’t filled with the pressure of being recruited every day, or the travel to parts unknown every weekend. He’s happy with his choice, but he said knowing he’d have to share his decision with coaches at other campuses who he’s become fond of was more difficult than he had imagined.
“The hardest part is, I don’t know, I guess kind of ending it,” he said of making a final call. “I’ve had great relationships with all the five schools, so just telling them ‘no’ is probably going to be the hardest part. I’m sure they’ll all understand it’s my decision and what is best for me.”
Having a chance to represent his school and city on the state’s biggest athletic stage isn’t lost on Gant.
“The last guy that came from here was [now Indianapolis Colts offensive lineman] Jack Mewhort, and he went to Ohio State,” Gant said of his high school. “He’s obviously pretty successful now. It’s awesome to be from here. I know it means a lot to people because so many people around here love Ohio State. It’s pretty important to me, and it’s pretty exciting.”