After sorting through more than 25 scholarship offers from the elite college football programs in the nation, after visiting several campuses, after hearing one sales pitch after another and experiencing the good, the bad and the ugly of the recruiting process, Crete-Monee's Laquon Treadwell has finally reached a decision.
On Thursday, at a press conference at his school, before family and teammates and friends, with at least four college coaches biting their lips and crossing their fingers in anticipation, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound wide receiver will choose Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Michigan.
Bet on Ole Miss.
Treadwell, who is ranked as the No. 6 player in the nation by recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network, is one of the last members of the top 100 in the class of 2013 to make a commitment. He has been careful to evaluate each school, to weigh all of his options, make the right decision, to have no regrets.
It hasn't been easy. Last August, he said he was leaning to Michigan. He has visited the Ann Arbor campus six times in the last two years and attended three games at Michigan Stadium. He said he liked coach Brady Hoke, was comfortable with the players and had a good relationship with a Michigan recruit, highly rated quarterback Shane Morris.
But Treadwell, unlike many 18-year-old recruits who are overwhelmed by the first school that shows them a lot of love, wasn't ready to commit. He said he "most likely won't make a decision until February," that he wanted to make visits "to farther places like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State."
Also a standout on Crete-Monee's basketball team, he passed up a game last weekend to visit Oklahoma State. Like Ole Miss, the Cowboys played up the family angle. Treadwell's uncle, Ricky Young, a former All-America linebacker at Oklahoma State, lives in Norman.
However, like Michigan, sources at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma admitted that Ole Miss was the leader. They concede it was significant that Treadwell stopped in Birmingham, Alabama, on his way home from the Under Armour All-American Game to watch Ole Miss' bowl game.
"I have no dream school," Treadwell insisted in August. "What is important to me? Style of offense, head coach, position coach, how comfortable I feel with the other players. It doesn't matter which conference I am in. I just want to compete against some of the best players in the country, in practice and in games."
Ole Miss wasn't among the schools that Treadwell was considering at that time. But it leaped into the picture when close friend and former teammate Anthony Sandifer, a standout cornerback on Crete-Monee's 2011 team who had originally committed to Michigan, changed his mind and opted for Ole Miss.
Treadwell made three visits to the Oxford campus. At a basketball game, the student section began chanting: "We want Treadwell." A report that Ole Miss legend Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli, had talked to Treadwell was unconfirmed. But the story gets better.
After visiting Ole Miss in early December, Treadwell told Neal McCready of RebelGrove.com: "I would say Ole Miss and Oklahoma are the favorites. My visit went very, very good. My mom loved it the most, so that's the best thing," he said.
"I feel like it's home when I'm around the coaches and players and that's the most important thing. I feel like I fit right in with everything Ole Miss is trying to do with the program and I love the offense they're running."
But last week, Treadwell told the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger that Ole Miss was his favorite school.
What did he like about Ole Miss? "Basically everything...coaches, recruits, players that are there. I've got a teammate (Sandifer) there," he said.
That's not all. Treadwell has developed a very strong bond with Robert Nkemdiche, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive end from Loganville, Georgia, who is the consensus choice as the No. 1 player in the nation. Nkemdiche, who de-committed from Clemson, has stated that Ole Miss is his favorite. He also has ties to Ole Miss. His brother Denzel is a standout linebacker on the football team. And his mother has stated that she wants her two sons to play together. Robert also is considering LSU.
Treadwell and Nkemdiche had an opportunity to hang out for a week while participating in last week's Under Armour All-American Game in Orlando. Treadwell's mother favors the two playing together. Treadwell also has another friend at Ole Miss, tackle Jordan Diamond of Simeon.
"We talked the whole week," Treadwell said about his relationship with Nkemdiche. "We've been talking before we even got here. We've been big on that."
Lemming predicts Treadwell will choose Ole Miss. "They have worked him hard. They came to my banquet in Chicago in December. They have done a great job on him, selling him on their future, him and Nkemdiche," he said.
Michigan apparently has faded out of the picture. "Michigan was the favorite a while ago but it's been trending in the wrong direction for quite some time. I would bet he (Treadwell) does not end up at Michigan," said recruiting analyst Tim Sullivan of Rivals.
Michigan, however, remains very much in the mix for junior cornerback Parrker Westphal of Bolingbrook, one of the top prospects in the class of 2014 in Illinois. Westphal recently said Michigan was the leader in his recruiting process and is "the school against which all others will be compared."
Treadwell, acclaimed the nation's top-rated wide receiver by Lemming and the Player of the Year in the Chicago area by the Sun-Times and Tribune, led Crete-Monee to a 14-0 record and the Class 6A championship by catching 81 passes for 1,424 yards and 16 touchdowns. As a junior, he caught 75 passes for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also stood out as a free safety.
Ironically, when he was growing up and playing for the University Park Lions, he played quarterback and dreamed of being another Michael Vick. But after being switched to wide receiver as a sophomore, he realized where his future was.
"Now I'm going to be another Justin Blackmon," he said, referring to the former Oklahoma State All-America wide receiver who had a standout rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Somewhere, Archie Manning is smiling.