The other schools were nipping at Donnie Simmons' heels rather than chasing him full-speed. They hoped to extend the recruiting process deeper into the summer, inviting the Stepinac senior defensive end to their camps for further evaluation.
They needed time. Syracuse didn't.
The Orange extended a scholarship offer to Simmons late this spring. Simmons accepted the offer, orally committing to Syracuse for the fall of 2011.
"Syracuse was showing me the most love, giving me most of the attention," Simmons said. "The rest of them were more going through the motions, but Syracuse was very welcoming. They really wanted me."
Simmons, 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, had multiple options but narrowed them to Syracuse, UConn,
Syracuse visited him at Stepinac toward the end of the school year. The coaching staff later watched his highlight tape and contacted him by phone to make the offer.
Simmons, who hopes to pursue a career in broadcasting, also found himself lured by Syracuse's prestigious Newhouse School of Public Communications, which has produced renowned sportscasters Marv Albert and Bob Costas, among others.
"It has one of the best communications schools in the nation," he said. "I'd love to go somewhere like that."
Simmons said finalizing his decision before his senior season alleviates the pressure.
"To have this scholarship, it means a lot. It means I'm locked up already," Simmons said. "I just have to focus on my schoolwork and my senior year. A lot of weight is off my shoulders."
Adding a few pounds to those shoulders was just part of the physical improvement Simmons has showcased since the end of the
In fact, Simmons' speed as an end rusher is what earned him attention in the first place. He ran a blazing 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash this spring at Rutgers' camp.
"Many recruiters think he is twitched-up, meaning he is quick off the ball and good at changing direction," Stepinac coach Mike O'Donnell said.