Durham is an intense and aggressive linebacker prospect out of Central Texas that had his choice of colleges to attend. He told us recently about why he is perfect for the LEO position at Ohio State. "Intensity, aggressiveness and how I use my hands and the way I take on blocks and shed them." He said. "I love to rush the passer and get in the backfield."
By Steve Patterson
Durham set a goal to play at a major D1 program and earned interest from some very good programs as early as his sophomore year. "I’ve been raised around football, and it has been my goal to play D1 since I was about six years old. I started getting interest as a sophomore so we began visiting then." The amount of visits he has made outnumbers the visits made by some graduated seniors who are now on colleges campuses. "I have made unofficial visits to West Virginia, Virginia, Wake Forest, North Carolina, Penn State, Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor, and SMU."
Strong College Visit Schedule
Working around his wrestling schedule, Durham made a number of camp appearances but was limited in Junior Day visits. "Last spring I went to a Junior Day at the Ole Miss spring game. And I attended camps at Alabama, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M and North Carolina last summer. "
When available to visit during the football season, he has been a road warrior, getting onto campus and seeing game days all across the south. "This past fall, I attended games at TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia Tech, Texas A&M, Baylor and North Carolina. I enjoyed all my visits and it gave me a perspective of how to evaluate the overall experience. There are a lot of good programs out there with a lot of things going for them – great crowds and fans, traditions, facilities, academics. I tried to look at what was different among them and what set certain schools apart from the rest. They all have pros and cons."
Ohio State Gets the Nod
Ohio State stood out as the early favorite due to the coaching quality that Durham found when he made his first two visits to Columbus and got to see the program. "I was looking for academics, tradition, game day atmosphere and the coaching staff. I knew right away Coach Tressel and Coach Fickell were the coaches I wanted to play for. I want to be somewhere where I feel comfortable and confident."
Other programs continue to pursue the outstanding national talent with Illinois and Stanford making late appeals. "I just received a written offer from Stanford, but there were a lot of schools showing interest through personal letters and invitations to Junior Days. I missed all my winter Junior Day invitations due to wrestling. Programs were contacting me and inviting me but I wasn’t able to attend. Not many programs want to offer until they meet you and size you up."
Westlake Draws Recruiters
And In-state schools were trying diligently to get Durham on campus prior to his commitment to the Buckeyes. "In Texas, I was receiving the most interest from Texas Tech, Baylor, SMU– these are teams that either blitz a lot or use a variation of the hybrid position that is a lb/de combination. Most of the programs recruiting me in Texas had indicated they would be in contact during the spring, since I missed visits due to wrestling."
Austin has strong football programs so most of the major schools take a look at many of the top performers according to Durham. "There are a lot of good players in Austin – a lot of Big 12 and Big 10 teams recruit here, particularly Oklahoma. OU consistently gets players from here but central Texas sends players all over the country."
Westlake is no stranger to college recruiting as Durham was sure an SEC or ACC school would pick him up early in the process. "Just looking at my school, we’ve got guys playing in the PAC-10, Ivy League, Big 10, ACC and other conferences.
Since I am from the south, I had made it public that I preferred to play in the SEC or ACC."
Colleges Find Themselves Unlucky
LSU was a viable option but luck was not on their side as two opportunities came and passed without the possibility of a visit. "The day my wrestling coach took me to Ohio State I was missing a Junior Day at LSU. I had to cancel my trip to see them play due to a hurricane that postponed their game. So fate took me away from LSU twice."
Nebraska, UCLA, and Stanford all showed interest early in Durham. "The staff at Nebraska watched my film in January and we agreed I would come to their spring game. Although I really didn’t want to go west, I was planning on going to a spring practice and Junior Day at UCLA and possibly Stanford. I have also received a lot of interest from Wake Forest. Coach White from Maryland loved my film but took a job at Notre Dame and said they would be in contact."
North Carolina was second behind Ohio State as a college selection according to Durham as Coach Butch Davis was impressive to the junior recruit. "The program that impressed me the most besides Ohio State was North Carolina. I liked Coach Butch Davis and his staff. Coach Davis personally knew me from camp and recently watched my film. Circumstances got in the way again. Their Junior Day was scheduled for Feb. 28th, so when I qualified for the state wrestling tournament I had a conflict. Also, Tommy Thigpen, the linebackers coach, took a job at Auburn, so I was going to wait to see who replaced him."
Originally from North Carolina, Durham would have liked returning to his hometown region even if that meant playing the middle linebacker position. "I am from North Carolina and they have a great staff and campus and you get a great degree. I am confident I would have received an offer, but they really wanted me for a Mike linebacker, and while I could end up there at OSU, I wanted to have a shot at rushing the passer and playing off the edge with the LEO position they have. I feel like I am a good fit at that position."
Some recruits like to string out the process but Durham felt deciding now was the right choice for him and his family. "I could have prolonged the process to accumulate more offers but that would have been distracting for me and my family. This way, I can concentrate on helping my high school team and focus on getting better for my senior year."