The four-star running back decommitted from Washington last month, something that’s becoming more common in today’s recruiting environment — not that fans are any more understanding.
There are plenty of GIFs that fit the football recruiting process. Michael Jackson happily noshing on popcorn. Raven Symone nervously chewing gum. An annoyed Judge Judy rolling her eyes.
With one word, Connor Wedington ignited the trifecta of emotions — decommitted.
The four-star Sumner running back announced via his Twitter account in December he was reopening his recruiting process after verbally committing to Washington as a junior. By mid-January, Wedington was one of two to decommit to UW and part of dozens across the country to do the same as the flip becomes more of the recruiting process that will end Wednesday with National Signing Day.
“The stigma is now gone with decommitments,” said Adam Gorney, a longtime recruiting analyst for Rivals and Yahoo! Sports. “It used to be if a kid decommited, he was kind of a flake and didn’t know what he wanted to do. That’s changed because the recruiting process has moved up so fast (with) offers going out in their eighth- and ninth-grade years. Kids feel compelled to make a decision earlier. … Things change, and that’s one of the things that happened with Connor. His recruitment really hadn’t exploded and taken off nationally until after he committed to Washington.”
As much as fans want to blame players for the decommitment, college coaches are equally responsible. Wedington, a versatile 6-foot, 190-pound athlete, can play either side of the ball, which presents too many options to pass up.
So, the calls didn’t stop because Wedington said he intended to play for Washington. Nor did his other dream of playing for Stanford, where an offer means nothing until you’re accepted to the school academically like every other student.
Wedington, who has a 3.8 GPA with plans to be an entrepreneur, was accepted.
“I had a couple schools pushing hard,” Wedington said, announcing on New Year’s Day that Baylor, Stanford, Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington were the final schools he was considering. He could reveal his choice before officially signing Wednesday.
“(Washington’s) philosophy is no official visits while you are committed,” Wedington continued. “Those schools wanted me to take official visits, and I wanted to respect (UW coach Chris Petersen’s) philosophy and be able to look at other recruits while I’m looking into other schools. It was super-hard because I built such a strong relationship with Coach Pete.”
Wedington and his two sets of parents developed a strategy for his decommitment and plan for a whirlwind January filled with official visits. Step one was staying off social-media sites because of possible backlash from UW fans.
“And it all came. It all came,” he said. “It’s embarrassing what some of the fans are doing. I ignore it because ultimately it’s my family’s decision. But I get it. They’re upset, and I would be, too, if I was in their position. It’s just not the way to handle it.”
Michael Collie, who married Connor’s mother when he was 6, got caught in the emotion. UW fans tweeted Wedington was done at Washington. Others called him drama-filled. All forgot Wedington is a 17-year-old kid.
“When I was 17, I didn’t look past what was for dinner,” said Collie, who played football at Western Washington. “This kid is thinking way beyond football and making tough choices, but doing what’s right for him. And it’s really hard, there were a couple times I made a couple comments on Twitter. Half of these guys never went to UW but are acting like it’s the end of the world that a 17-year-old kid decided to do something different.”
Both sets of parents traveled with their son on the official Stanford visit and to Baylor, and Collie joined Wedington on his trip to UCLA this weekend.
Wedington also traveled to Honolulu to play in the inaugural Polynesian Bowl. It was an equally important trip because he hadn’t played football since October due to a separated right shoulder, missing Sumner’s run to the Class 4A state semifinals.
Wedington shined at Aloha Stadium. He finished with 103 all-purpose yards and one touchdown to earn the game’s offensive MVP award.
“I needed that assurance,” said Wedington, who finished his senior year with 2,048 all-purpose yards, 19 rushing touchdowns and three receiving TDs.
“I saw him play in the Polynesian Bowl, and he’s very dynamic,” Gorney said. “He was very much dedicated to Washington, and if there was one school that could really sway him off that decision, it was Stanford and they offered. In that (Cardinal) offense, a running back of his caliber can be a very big contributor.”
After completing the visit at Baylor on Tuesday, Wedington sounded exasperated. The school’s fans were elated and tweeted him every bear GIF possible to express their want for him in Texas.
Only one thing was certain.
“I’m super-excited to get it all over with and get going with the next chapter in my life,” he said.