During Monday's player workout at Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep high school, Michigan State quarterbacks coach Dave Warner took one long last look at Damion Terry before the Spartans opened the door for an official commitment.
Meanwhile, Terry had seen everything he needed to see from Michigan State and hoped to perform well, and make the commitment final.
Both parties got their wish. Terry performed well, MSU proposed, and Terry officially accepted.
"I think they (Michigan State) just wanted to see the ball come out of Damion's hands, see him a little bit live, see if he is really as big as he is with cleats on the field," said Erie Cathedral Prep head coach Mike Mischler. "So Coach Warner was able to watch our workout from a distance and observe. I think obviously Coach Warner was impressed enough that he recommended him to Coach Dantonio."
Terry already had a scholarship offer in hand, based on junior film. But, as is customary with the Spartans, Michigan State didn't press for a commitment soon after extending the scholarship offer. MSU took time to delve deeper into evaluation.
Normally, Michigan State likes to bring a handful of quarterback candidates onto campus for June or July summer camp in East Lansing and create a war room wish list based on their performances in front of MSU coaches.
But the increasingly accelerated nature of today's recruiting calendar has led to quicker evaluations and quicker commitments. MSU didn't want to wait until the camp season before deciding which of the quarterbacks were serious Plan A material. And Terry didn't want to wait and allow someone else to commit to Michigan State and fill the Spartans' planned allotment of only one QB for the class of 2013.
"I think what happens is these kids are reading stuff online," Mischler said. "Kids have so much access to information."
Michigan State was in on a pair of Top 250 quarterbacks heading into last weekend. On Sunday, Matt Alviti committed to Northwestern. Michigan State had also offered but didn't seem to be approaching Alviti with as much energy lately as they were with Terry and Tyler Bruggman, a Top 250 QB from Phoenix.
Bruggman visited MSU last Thursday and excitedly had his photo taken in front of Spartan Stadium. Terry visited two days later.
Alviti reported earlier in the month that neither Michigan State nor Northwestern was pressing for a commitment. They both wanted the Illinois QB to take his time. But after one of Alviti's top three schools - Notre Dame - gained a commitment from Top 250 dual-threat QB Malik Zaire of Kettering (Ohio) Bishop Alter, the Irish bowed out of the Alviti chase. This seemed to accelerate Alviti's decision-making process, not wanting MSU or Northwestern to fill up without him.
Alviti went with the Wildcats while MSU continued to weigh more options. Terry was among those options. And Terry suddenly was in a situation in which he could wake up any day and find that Bruggman had committed and taken MSU's available slot.
"The bottom line was this: There wasn't going to be a better fit for Damion than Michigan State," Mischler said. "I had full confidence that if Damion went out to these summer camps and saw everything that he would be a 30-offer kid. No doubt in my mind.
"But he just did not feel anywhere would be a better fit for him. I think some other schools will be upset about that, but that's the way it goes in recruiting."
Mischler has coached 30-offer guys in the past.
"I don't follow this ratings stuff and everything that Rivals does, but I have sent over 100 kids to play college football and I have had multiple quarterbacks go on to play college football but not as quarterbacks, and this is the first true quarterback that I've been able to send onto Division I and he is a true quarterback with excellent talent," Mischler said. "This kid knows what he is doing back there. His talent level and his skill range is as good as anybody I've seen and we've seen some pretty good quarterbacks around here."
Other Erie Cathedral Prep quarterbacks who went on to play other positions in college include former All-Big Ten WR Ed Hinkel at Iowa and former MSU defensive back Tom Dance.
Mischler's prized pupil is former NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Iowa standout Bob Sanders.
Terry 'Has Everything You Would Want'
MSU coaches liked Terry's junior film enough to make him one of only a handful of QBs to receive a scholarship offer. But Terry wasn't the first player from Erie Cathedral Prep that MSU began pursuing this year. The Spartans showed more early interest in Cathedral Prep RB Delton Williams.
"They were on Delton Williams a lot earlier than they were on Damion. Damion was kind of a wait-and-see," Mischler said. "But Damion is one of those guys that when you keep watching his film, then you see what he can do. Then I got his sophomore film up on line too and you can see that he was just getting better and better."
What did the MSU coaches like about Terry?
"He has everything you would want in a Division I quarterback," Mischler said. "He has size at a legit 6-foot-4 with size 16 feet. He has already set every record for us and we have a pretty long, storied history here with some pretty good football players.
"He is extremely mobile. He's long. He is tall enough to see over Division I lines. He has a lot of juke to him and speed and his arm strength and throwing ability are phenomenal. He is really the entire package, I think."
MSU had meetings with Terry and Williams last week, as both parties continued their evaluation.
"I think both of those guys passed the character test last week when they were able to talk to them more," Mischler said. "Damion fits into their program, and the program fits him. I don't think he felt like even if an Ohio State came in - and to me they are equals - that he would fit in elsewhere better than he would fit in at Michigan State.
"So I guess the whole idea is, why wait? I think they had five or six offers out to quarterbacks, so why wait?"
After watching him live on Monday, Warner apparently felt the same way. The scholarship offer became a full-fledged invitation to join the Spartan family. There is a slight difference, and Terry earned the difference on Monday.
Terry demonstrated all the throws while battling very strong winds.
"It was one of the windiest days I've ever seen at that field but Damion did a good job," Mischler said. "He threw with the wind and into the wind. It was real wind, now. I weigh 300 pounds and it was pushing me around. Everyone there knew what we were dealing with in the wind. He made some really strong throws into the wind. Arm strength is not an issue with this kid.
"Coach Warner came in and saw him along with a couple of other colleges and Coach Warner really liked what he saw."
Last fall, Terry displayed dual threat capabilities while operating out of the shot gun in Erie Cathedral's spread offense. Terry led Erie Cathedral to the second round of the state playoffs. He threw for 1,800 yards with 19 passing TDs, 8 rushing TDs and 6 INTs.
He missed the last two games of the regular season with an injury, but came back to lead his team to a 49-7 victory over Meadville in the first round of the playoffs. Terry accounted four six TDs in that game, including four on the ground. He rushed for 114 yards. Through the air, he was 8-of-13 for 167 yards with two TDs.
"Even though he can excel with us in spread, I think it's a really good fit with Michigan State because I think he is more of a pro style type of guy," Mischler said. "I think he is probably better suited for what they do. He does a very good job with the spread but I think he is going to be a good pocket guy but he also is strong and fast enough to give you real good escapability."
Mischler Impressed With MSU's Recruiters
Mischler has dealt with many recruiters in 14 years as head coach at Erie Cathedral. Michigan State's staff represented well.
"I was extremely happy for Damion because it's a kid's dream to go play at a place like Michigan State," Mischler said. "The other thing is that I was very high on the coach that was recruiting him, Mark Staten. And I was really impressed with Coach Warner. And everyone tells me how good of a guy Coach Dantonio is, so I think he is going to be at a good place, with good people, and to me that is more important than anything because there are a lot of jerks in this sport and you want to make sure they are with guys you can trust.
"In some ways these guys end up being your children, you spend so much time with them, and you want to make sure they get to a good place with good people and I am confident that Michigan State is a completely solid place."
Tom Dance passed along a strong endorsement of Dantonio and Michigan State to Terry and Mischler, despite the fact that Dance never got on the field for the Spartans. Dance practiced briefly under Dantonio at MSU before retiring due to head injuries in 2007. Dance was recruited by John L. Smith and spent only a short time on the practice field with Dantonio and his staff. After retiring, Dance remained at Michigan State and earned his degree, and was still embraced as part of the program by the new staff despite having hung up his helmet.
After graduation, Dance moved back to Erie, where he has a job and a new wife. Dance is still close to the Erie Cathedral program, and still has warm feelings for Michigan State.
"Tommy can't say enough about the place and I respect Tommy Dance a great deal," Mischler said. "He is a great kid and one of my favorites and he speaks highly of the place and he is extremely excited about this too.
"Tommy had head injuries and he wasn't able to finish out everything he wanted to do there but he absolutely loves the place, loves Coach Dantonio, loves Coach Staten."
Staten is MSU's primary recruiter in northeastern Pennsylvania. Warner checked in as the position coach. It wasn't Warner's first time through Erie.
"Coach Warner came through here a long time ago when he was recruiting at UConn (under Randy Edsall in 2000)," Mischler said.
Mischler and Warner renewed acquaintances last week when Mischler drove Terry and Williams to East Lansing for an unofficial visit.
"I sat in on his quarterback meetings and everything when we went up there," Mischler said. "Coach Warner is a good dude. I think Damion is going to get along well with him."
Warner also helped polish Brian Hoyer into an NFL quarterback, and is within a few days of adding Kirk Cousins to his coaching resume as an NFL quarterback.
"I think that probably means more to Damion than it does to me," Mischler said. "Damion still has a senior year to go in high school so to talk about pros is not necessarily a priority.
"I think Michigan State being Michigan State and Coach Dantonio being Coach Dantonio, and then Coach Warner having the track record of sending guys on probably fit into the process for Damion. That's putting the cart before the horse in some ways but at some ways you want the horse to be there once you get on it."
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