TAMPA, Fla. - For the second time in eight days, Plant High School held a high-profile announcement ceremony for a heralded recruit.
Last Wednesday, Panther four-star quarterback Phillip Ely and three-star offensive tackle Tony Posada chose Alabama and Michigan, respectively, in a commitment ceremony at the Tampa school. This week, there was an even higher-ranked prospect who planned to make his announcement.
James Wilder Jr. is the No. 3 overall recruit and the No. 1 athlete in the entire country. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior held offers from virtually every school in the country. However, he had pared his list down to a final three of Florida, Florida State and Georgia.
Wilder has played things close to the vest throughout the entire process. Each trip he made, he would enjoy and rave about, but he never gave much away. That's why it was surprising to many fans to read in a publication on Tuesday that Georgia was the likely destination for the five-star prospect.
Wilder further fueled speculation on Wednesday afternoon when he showed up in the school auditorium, in front of live television and numerous other media outlets, wearing a black shirt with a red vest on top. Would he pull a shocker and pick the Bulldogs after all?
After a highlight film was shown and Plant head coach Robert Weiner praised his star running back and linebacker, it was Wilder's turn to take the microphone.
He started by thanking family, friends, coaches and many others. He had the room in suspense as he moved quickly into the actual announcement of his commitment, saying, 'I'm now going to share where I plan to attend college,' and reaching under the table before admitting he was kidding and wanted to thank more people. The room laughed as it was just Wilder's personality showing up during his time in the spotlight.
When he did finally announce, he again went under the table to pull out a hat. He came up wearing a cap with the logo of the Florida State Seminoles.
"I want to announce that I will be playing college football at Florida State," he said to loud applause from friends and teammates. His family and close friends then revealed FSU shirts they had been wearing. Wilder also did the signature Tomahawk Chop familiar to Seminole fans.
"I just felt the most comfortable at FSU," Wilder said after the ceremony. "I liked their offense and I'm going to play running back there. I liked Florida and Georgia too, but I felt at home in Tallahassee. I had to go with my heart."
Weiner says that the Seminoles are getting a terrific player and young man.
"James is the most famous high school player in America," Weiner said very matter of factly. "He had his choice of any school in the country and had coaches lining up for his services and he had the opportunity to get a really big head. He didn't do that at all.
"James is a team player, first and foremost. He plays all over the field for us and isn't about the glory. He was a huge part of our state title last year, but you'd never know it from talking to him. He was so proud of the team.
"He's also a high-character kid. You are not going to read about him getting in trouble in college. He has a great support system with his family and friends and they have brought up an excellent young man that I can say I am proud to have coached."
Wilder is commitment No. 15 in the Florida State class of 2011. He joins safety Karlos Williams as the second five-star prospect committed to the Seminoles, who are also in the running for five-star linebacker Tony Steward.
"We're going to have a very good class," Wilder said. "It's already up there, but we're going to add some other top guys and we're going to do Florida State proud."