Carver running back Isaiah Crowell sat on stage softly smiling into the overhead lights and peering back at the shadows.
Nearly 300 people looked on from the darkness in near silence as they waited for ESPNU to cut in to view one of the most anticipated announcements across the country on Wednesday at Occasions Event Center on Victory Drive.
Inside his backpack was a hat with a college logo on it. And on the other end of countless television sets and computer screens sat a legion of college football fans waiting to hear word on the running back’s decision. Alabama or Georgia?
But there never was a decision to be made. At least that’s what Crowell said after he put on a Georgia hat and showed off a friend’s bulldog puppy dressed in a Georgia sweater.
He knew it would end like this all along, even if no else, including Georgia coach Mark Richt, was sure of until the two-time Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City Offensive Player of the Year put on the black Georgia cap.
“I was a little kid thinking about Georgia,” Crowell said. “Georgia was always on my mind. That’s where I always wanted to go.”
Crowell’s announcement was a major catch for Richt, who turned to recruits to lure in one another with the notion of a “Dream Team,” a group of incoming players so talented they could make the Bulldogs the best team in SEC and, maybe, in the country.
Crowell is ranked the No. 1 running back in the country by ESPN and was arguably the biggest piece of the puzzle and the only major one missing after Thomas County Central defensive end Ray Drew committed to the Bulldogs last week.
But none of those other commitments or a glittery name for a recruiting class mattered to Crowell, who said Georgia did not even have to recruit him particularly hard to haul him in.
“Nothing was really a pitch,” Crowell said of Georgia’s recruiting tactics. “I just felt it in my heart.”
Crowell’s skills, speed and stats made him one of the most sought-after recruits in the country beginning with his freshman season, even leading some Georgia fans to proclaim him a potential savior for a program coming off a 6-7 season.
Richt stopped short of saying Crowell’s signing was going to change the course of a program but did say he would have the opportunity to make an immediate impact.
“I wouldn’t be shocked to see him run that rock in the dome against Boise State, on the opening play if he does what he’s supposed to do,” Richt said, speaking about the Bulldogs’ 2011 season opener at the Georgia Dome.
Crowell said he didn’t worry much about outside expectations, but spoke confidently when asked if he thought he could bring Georgia an SEC championship.
“I think it’s possible as long as we get down there, work hard and stay focused,” Crowell said.
And a national championship?
“Oh, yes, sir.”