The phrase “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” was for a long time an applicable metaphor for college football recruiting. That, however, has been less and less the case in recent years as the process became much more like Usain Bolt than Steve Prefontaine. That’s especially true for the Michigan Wolverines this year. After securing an astounding 18 commitments by the end of May, the Maize & Blue continued their blistering pace over the weekend by adding two more pledges to their 2013 mix.
One of those commitments – Westwood (MA) Xaverian Brothers DT, Maurice Hurst -- became public Saturday. News of the other began leaking out shortly thereafter.
“I really do think that it was this week that I really knew,” Baltimore (MD) Gilman star Henry Poggi told GoBlueWolverine Saturday evening. “I took a visit to Alabama a few weeks ago, and then after that visit I was just weighing the pros and cons. Then from there I made my decision. It was definitely very close (between Michigan and Alabama), but I’m 100% for Michigan. (The first reason) I decided to go to Michigan is because of the academics. I understand that football is going to be a very small percentage of my life. I want a degree that can carry a lot of weight, and I know a Michigan degree can do that.”
“The second thing that was most important to me was how I got along with the kids. I know a few kids in Michigan’s recruiting class like Kyle Bosch. I’m good buddies with him and I get along with him. And on a few of my visits I got to hang out with some players (like) Joe Bolden and Taylor (Lewan). They’re just guys that I think I could hang out with, have some fun, and form relationships with that really mean a lot. Football is tough so you have to be able to relate to the guys that you deal with every day.”
While it’s clear that Poggi’s appreciation for all of Michigan’s virtues gave Brady Hoke & company a distinct advantage, the similar appreciation from his family may be responsible for making that lead insurmountable.
“(My mom) really really liked it,” Poggi stated. “She liked Ann Arbor and she really liked the coaches. My mom’s biggest thing is to make sure someone is going to be there to take care of her baby boy (laughter). She saw that the coaches are good people and she was impressed by that.”
The seminal moment for dad may have come during a clandestine trip to Ann Arbor the weekend after Michigan’s spring game.
“We kept it quiet,” said Poggi of the previously unreported visit. “(Michigan) had gotten done with spring practices and they were in the middle of their exams. I went up and I hung out with Taylor (Lewan) and Pat (Omameh). And my dad hadn’t been up before that, so he came up and to see Ann Arbor. I really wanted him to see it.”
It was the final stamp of approval for a youngster that compared all of his would-be coaches to the standard set by his father.
“He definitely expects a lot out of me,” Poggi said regarding his dad. “His eyes are always on me. He wants to see me succeed… I’m his son. There is some stuff that he can get mad with other kids about and really (let it all out) on me (laughter). It’s really a blessing. It’s great. I wouldn’t want to play for anyone else. One of the big components of me picking where I’m going to play is I needed to know those coaches were going to look out for me like a father figure.”
“Right when I met coach (Jerry) Montgomery we hit it off. I think that he’s just a great guy. I can tell that he really cares a lot about his players. He told me he is not as much of a yeller and a cusser as he is a guy that tells you what you did wrong, is really going to care about you, and wants to see you do your best. And I know from my brother Jim who plays at Iowa… he has always told me the most important thing about picking your top choice is your position coach and strength coach. Make sure that those two people are really looking out for you because those are going to be the guys that you really deal with the most.”
“Coach Mattison... I really liked him too. He coached the Ravens, which is pretty cool, me being a Baltimore kid. He actually coached Victor Abiamiri at Notre Dame, who played at my high school. I talked to Vic about Coach Mattison and he had nothing but good things to say. I know that (Mattison and Montgomery) are guys who really know football, who are really going to coach me up, and want to see me succeed, but demand a lot out of me… which is what I want.”
The coaching staff in Ann Arbor has already begun mapping out those demands and plotting a course for Scout.com’s #15 DT that could see him become a contributor the moment he steps foot on campus. Measuring in currently at 6-4, 265 lbs. and capable of running a 4.78 forty, it’s a challenge he believes he will definitely be up to meeting.
Said Poggi, “I’ll start off as a 5-technique and then work into that three technique position. 5-techniques are around 280, then hopefully I’ll put some more weight on sophomore, junior, and senior year and be a 3-technique. Whatever plays out.”
“I’m a real smart kid,” he added when asked to describe his game. “I really know football, being a coach’s son. I like to think of myself as a tough player mentally and physically. I’m a 100%-effort guy. I’m a great teammate. I always think about those guys on the scout team that don’t get all of the shine. I think about them first. I’ve been told that I’m a pretty athletic kid for my size, I’m a good pass rusher, and I’m good against the run… but the biggest thing I’m proud about is my knowledge of the game.”
With recruiting now behind him, this precocious prospect’s athletic focus shifts fully to his current team. Not a moment too soon for a player that would rather elude the spotlight than bask in it.
“One thing I really wanted to do is not really focus the recruiting process on me (and instead) really have it come to my school,” Poggi explained. “I wanted a lot of the coaches to come to my school to see other players. That’s really what Cyrus Jones and Darius Jennings did for me. Darius was a big time recruit (committed to Virginia) and Cyrus went to Alabama and he was a big time recruit. They waited a while and coaches came and got a chance to see us. I wanted to make sure all of the other kids got looks. I really don’t like all of that attention. I don’t think it necessarily should be about me. Right now I’m not focusing on necessarily college. My goal is to do as best I can for my team this season. After my senior year I’ll be 100% about college. Right now I’m 100% Gilman.”
With loads of returning talent, Gilman is poised for another big year.
“Micah Kiser committed to Virginia is a linebacker in my class… Shane Cockerille, who is our quarterback going to Maryland… then we had two guys Miles Norris who is a linebacker and Wyatt Dickerson who is a strong safety linebacker who will end up being D1 guys who are real good football players,” said Poggi. “Then in the class below me we have Melvin Khein. He is going to be a real good player. He is a kid from Africa and is still learning the game, but he is a real good athlete. Troy Vincent Jr., who is going to be a phenomenal player, is a corner who just transferred from Georgetown prep. He is a grade below me he is going to be a ton offer guy. Then Chibuzo Ukandu is an offensive tackle. In the sophomore class this kid Robert Branch, who is a WR/DB… he’ll be a good player. Then there’s Ty Locksley who is Mike Locksley kid. He is going to be a really really good player.”
There’s also this kid named Henry Poggi who’s pretty good too. And -- he's a Wolverine!