IOWA CITY — This really happened: People from Iowa sent unsigned letters to Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon mail last fall comparing his rushing statistics with Hawkeye running back Mark Weisman’s.
Weisman was (and is) a productive starter. Gordon was backing up Montee Ball and James White.
They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but that isn’t true for recruiting followers. Gordon gave a verbal commitment to Iowa in August 2010. Three months later, he de-committed and cast his lot with his home-state school. Gordon is from Kenosha.
“It was extremely hard for me,” Gordon told Fox Sports Wisconsin last week. “The relationship we had (at Iowa) was great. To let them know that I didn’t want to go there and I wanted to commit to Wisconsin was tough.”
You see the way sophomore Gordon has cut apart opposing defenses this year to the amazing point of 9.5 yards per carry, and you can’t blame Iowa fans for wondering what might have been. That original commitment was a cruel tease. But it wasn’t meant to be one.
The Kenosha Komet, as some call him, pledged to Iowa too soon, and says so. He was 17. It happens. Current Hawkeye defensive back Desmond King verbally committed to Central Michigan and then Ball State. Then Iowa made him an offer.
Iowa’s players seem to hold no grudge against Gordon. They know it’s easy to get conflicted in the recruiting process.
But in the end, Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock of south Florida said, “You do get to choose. Wherever anybody chooses, you just hope for them that it’s the best choice they make.”
Hawkeye linebacker James Morris was a blue-chipper out of Solon. But he avoided the crush of phone calls and recruiting letters from college coaches because he verbally committed to Iowa as a high school sophomore after Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz phoned him in December 2007 with an offer.
“I said ‘Coach, I always wanted to be a Hawkeye. I’ll see you in three years.’ ” Morris recalled this week.
So his recruiting was shut almost before it was open. Except for the following summer, when a coach of note tried to slip through that door.
“I only had one school offer me after that,” Morris said, “and that was Stanford. I ended up talking to Jim Harbaugh. He was the new coach at Stanford. He just wouldn’t let me off the phone.
“In my opinion, he was about as classy as one can be when trying to recruit a player who was already committed. But I just told him ‘Coach, my dad (Iowa football equipment manager Greg Morris) works at Iowa, I live in Iowa, and I’m an Iowa fan.’ He was like ‘If anything happens, keep us in mind. We’re going to keep recruiting you if that’s all right with you.’
“I said ‘Coach, I told you how it is.’ He said ‘OK, we’re going to stay in touch.’ ”
Morris said he was a kid who “didn’t have the chutzpah” to tell Harbaugh to forget about it.
It wasn’t as if Harbaugh was relentless. In fact, he was welcomed to the Iowa football complex as the San Francisco 49ers’ coach in the spring of 2011 when he met with Hawkeye coaches and quarterback Ricky Stanzi before that year’s NFL draft.
Like Morris, Gordon ultimately determined he didn’t want to stray very far from his family.
“I totally understand,” Morris said. “It’s just hard to judge people when they make these decisions, because you don’t necessarily know what’s going on with their home situation and how much the family factors into those things.”
Gordon said he expects to hear an earful from Hawkeye fans at Saturday’s Wisconsin-Iowa game. Maybe one of the dim bulbs who mailed him an anonymous note last year will be among them.
Postscript: Here’s what Ferentz said Tuesday when asked about Gordon’s de-commitment and recruits changing commitments (funny to call them “commitments” until they really are “commitments, isn’t it?) in general:
That’s why there’s national letter of intents and signing days. To me the issue is early-signing. I think that’s probably the best solution because when somebody signs a letter of intent, there’s no contract.
It’s just the way recruiting is. I don’t think it’s ever a surprise when a good home‑state player stays in his home state when they have a great program. I think that’s exactly what happened.
He was a guy we liked an awful lot in the recruiting process. We still like him a lot. I am sure he’s still a great young man. He’s obviously a very good football player.
It’s kind of part of the recruiting deal. It’s kind of like bad breaks or injuries, you know, if you can’t deal with those kinds of things, you probably ought to do something else. You go to the NFL, they do have contracts in the NFL that are binding. But letters of intent are binding, too, for the most part.
Comments are closed.