Glenbard West tight end Nathan Marcus didn't choose Vanderbilt because he likes Nashville, the capitol of country music, or because he wants to compete in the SEC, the toughest football conference in the nation, or because it's only an hour-long plane flight from Chicago or because he wants to major in aerospace at an academic-minded institution.
No, Marcus chose Vanderbilt because he had a "gut feeling" about his decision and because his mother, who did extensive research on the recruiting process, apparently arrived at a positive feeling about the school even before her son did.
"I didn't have to think about it too much," said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. "It sounds like a clich but I felt it in my gut. You really have a gut feeling at what you want. I won't change my mind. If Vanderbilt recruits three tight ends who are better than me, I feel I can outwork them. I don't feel I will have any regrets."
Marcus' mother made sure her son didn't make a hasty decision, that he wouldn't regret not waiting for more scholarship offers that would be sure to come as the 2012 season goes along. He had six offers--Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Indiana, Duke, Boston College and Toledo.
"I'm glad to get it over with before it got crazy," he said. "I'm glad to get my mind made up before I get stressed out and maybe not make the right choice. In a clear head, there is no question in my mind that I made the right choice.
"I went to a lot of schools early and got a feel for other schools. When I went back to Vanderbilt a second time, I compared them all. Vanderbilt has great academics, as good as it gets for a Division I school. I know the SEC is the best conference for football but that didn't play a big factor in my decision.
"My family and coaches reminded me that I could wait for more offers. They wondered if I was holding out for a particular school. My mother made me think about it. She wanted to be sure that I wasn't making a snap decision. I think Vanderbilt was her decision for a long time. She liked the coaches, who were very honest to her, and the good education. In the end, I couldn't name another school I was interested in."
Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet said Marcus was the earliest commitment he has had. But he didn't question the youngster's decision. "It is a good fit for him, the best of all worlds. He loves the academic end of it and I think he is excited to play in the SEC. Vanderbilt recruited him as good as anyone, if not better. He had no pressure to commit," Hetlet said.
Marcus is Vanderbilt's sixth commitment. The Commodores play in the SEC's East Division with South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss, members of the SEC's West Division, also are on their schedule.
Growing up, he preferred basketball to football. His father persuaded him to concentrate on football. He enjoyed basketball because he was taller than other kids and able to dominate them. Then they began to grow and Marcus began to have more passion for football.
As a freshman, he was a wide receiver on a 70-man squad. On a team that was run-oriented, he mostly blocked and caught only seven passes. Then sophomore coach John Sigmund, looking for a tight end, pulled Marcus aside and suggested that he was big enough and would be a good fit at the position. As a starter, even as a blocker, he had fun.
As a sophomore on the varsity, he caught four passes in a game against York. A light bulb went on. "All of a sudden, people were talking about me and I began to think I could be going somewhere as a football player, that I was getting better," he said.
Last year, as college recruiters from coast to coast came to the Glen Ellyn school to evaluate defensive end Tommy Schutt (who went to Ohio State), Marcus began to get some attention. He hoped they took note of the film when he made two blocks against Wheaton Warrenville South in a nationally televised game on ESPN and put the defenders on their backs.
"I started to get pulled out of class to meet with coaches," he said. "I realized they were interested in me as a recruit. I met coaches from Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State. I said to myself: 'OK, if I keep working hard and performing, I can play in college. My name will get to the colleges and recruiting will take care of itself.' I was surprised but really happy about what was happening.
"Now the pressure is off me. I miss getting pulled out of class and meeting with college coaches. But it feels great to know my future is settled. I have what I want."