For much of the past year Michigan appeared to be an afterthought in Blake Countess' recruitment. Appeared, however, is the operative word. Within the Countess family there was an unwavering interest in the Maize & Blue sustained in part through a promise by the staff in Ann Arbor to evaluate his performance as a senior. After reviewing his film the Wolverines finally jumped definitively into the fray with the offer last month, then strengthened their position with a memorable official visit in early December. Despite a strong visit official visit showing by Georgia Tech and his former teammate (and current Yellow Jacket) Louis Young, the Wolverines had a few key ingredients that made them too tough to beat.
"Thinking about it, (Michigan and Georgia Tech) are really great institutions and at both of them you get great educations," Countess explained. "When I sat back and thought about all of the schools that had offered, I thought about which school I would want to go to if I wasn't playing football. That's what it really came down to – the environment and the type of people you're going to be around. Michigan just stood out the most and I felt most comfortable with them."
Learning more about Michigan's tradition and academic prestige enhanced that comfort significantly. The Army All-American's interaction with the players and coaches also weighed heavily into the equation. That's why it should come as little surprise that his strong rapport with his Michigan recruiter Tony Dews was so key.
"Me and Coach Dews have a really great relationship and I think he built a really great relationship with my family as well," said Countess. "Coach Dews definitely had a lot to do with it because he kept it real with me through the whole process. My Michigan offer was not an early offer. It came kind of midseason, but that was kind of expected because Coach Dews told me he was going to keep fighting (to get me offered) and it finally broke for me."
"(Coach Dews) was really excited when I committed," continued Countess. "Yesterday he came over to the house and I think I kind of caught him off guard with the way I told him. He was just playing with me and said, ‘Blake, are you going to come to Michigan? I won't tell nobody.' ‘I was like, ‘you know what coach, I am! I've been talking with my parents… we talked about it all week, and I am ready to commit coach.' He was like, ‘hold on, hold on, hold on… what?! (Laughter).' It was fun! He was really excited and said welcome to the family. Then we called Coach Rod and he was real excited too. We caught him in the airport. I think he was getting on a plane. He was real pumped up."
The only real question about Michigan leading up to the commitment had to do with the rumors about coaching staff instability. Though clearly an important factor in the final analysis, it proved not to be a deciding one.
"(The commitment) was kind of a long time coming," Countess said. "Me and my family had been going back and forth about whether I really wanted to do it or not. I definitely thought about (the rumors). You obviously build a relationship with the coach, but this is college football and (coaches leaving) happens everywhere. You may pick a school that you think has a solid coaching staff and they're going to around and then they up and move the next year out of nowhere. Really my thing was to pick the school and not the coaches. Obviously coaches are going to have a big role in your recruitment because those are the ones that you're committing to. As far as coach Rod and his staff, I'm confident that they'll be there. I'm confident that that if not, Michigan is a good enough school that whoever comes in is going to be just as good. I like the school enough that I would stay."
Now that his days as a recruit are over, Countess plans to take on the role of recruiter. That will certainly be among his primary objectives at the Army All American game next month where he'll be in the company of a number of top Michigan targets. He has already taken aim at one in particular.
"I actually went on my official with Wayne Lyons," stated Countess. "We went to a couple of camps this summer and I think he is coming down to the wire. Michigan is in his top group. I always mess with him, so it's going to be fun."