Its much easier to handle the pressure behind a facemask. But Wednesday at Northwestern High School there wasnt a football helmet for Trojan quarterback Mason Rudolph to hide in.
First, the rising senior had to make two of the toughest, most awkward phone calls of his life, alerting a pair of national powerhouse football programs that despite six months of courtship he would not be their next quarterback. Not easy for a teenager, even if he is 6-foot-4 and weighs 210.
Then, standing at a podium, Rudolph had to tame his nerves and reveal his college commitment decision to a sizeable gathering of family, friends, teammates, teachers and coaches, broadcast live on the radio via WRHI.
I will be attending the University of Oklahoma State.
So it didnt come out so smoothly (its Oklahoma State University for the record), but certainly Rudolphs nerves got in the way. Afterwards, there was relief all around that the recruiting process, a trying one that intensified in the last few weeks, was over.
Its definitely one of the hardest decisions Ive made in my life, Rudolph, a three-star prospect, said afterward. Luckily I had my family and my coaches and teachers to help me out with it, but what I think it came down to was the character of (head) coach (Mike) Gundy and coach (Michael) Yurcich. That program was really attractive to me and I could see myself there.
All the schools were upfront, and they all had something to offer, said Northwestern football coach Kyle Richardson, but at the end of the day this was just the right fit. It was his decision and once he said it was where he wanted to go, everybody got right behind him.
At Oklahoma State, Rudolph found familiar football 1,088 miles away. He had a slew of equally enticing options, including the other two finalists, Virginia Tech and LSU. But Oklahoma State and head coach Mike Gundy operate a similar score-hungry Air Raid offense as Northwestern, one that Rudolph piloted to over 40 points per game last fall, while personally throwing for 3900 yards and 41 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Rudolphs learning curve as a Cowboy will be significantly shorter than other QBs, making the distance from home easier to swallow.
I think that will give me a huge advantage coming in, said Rudolph, who transferred to Northwestern before his sophomore year after playing his freshman season as a receiver at Westminster Catawba Christian School. Its something Ive already been taught the last three years, so its gonna be a good opportunity for me to hopefully play early.
Physically, obviously the game is gonna be bigger, faster, stronger, Richardson said. But from a mental standpoint, hes gonna have the opportunity to get in the mix quick.
Among a number of official and unofficial recruiting trips, Rudolph visited Oklahoma States Stillwater campus for the Cowboys Spring Game in April.
The facilities are out of this world, he said. (T.) Boone Pickens just dumps money in that program. Its an attractive place to be.
Like his Trojan quarterback predecessor, the University of Tennessees Justin Worley, Rudolph will graduate this December and enroll early at Oklahoma State, allowing him to bed in for 2014 spring football in Stillwater. By getting the decision out of the way early, Rudolph was also able to choose where he wanted to go, and avoid getting swept up in the falling dominoes of other quarterbacks decisions.
There wont be a quarterback in the country who will wait beyond the end of next month (June), said Rudolphs father, Brett, who played linebacker at North Carolina in the late 1980s. No matter how many stars are next to their name, theyre gonna go ahead and make their pick because they know there is only one guy who can play on Saturday and they get nervous.
Brett Rudolph said he laughed several weeks ago when he read that highly sought prep quarterback Drew Barker was still unsure of his decision two days before he announced he would go to the University of Kentucky. Rudolph didnt think that was possible, until it happened with his son.
Its been far more difficult than I thought, he said, and I thought I knew recruiting its been difficult and Im glad its over.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T