Bulldogs junior All-Met E.J. Levenberry committed to Florida State on Tuesday afternoon in the Hylton auditorium, about a decade after 2001 All-Met Defensive Player of the Year Ahmad Brooks held his audience captive in that same room during a seven-second pregnant pause before announcing his intention to attend Virginia, spurning three other finalists, including Florida State.
The 6-foot-3, 226-pound Levenberry took a more direct route from behind a table on the auditorium stage, thanking his many supporters and the coaches from each of his three finalists before slapping on a Florida State cap and leaving the Michigan and Oklahoma caps on the table.
Levenberry said he chose Florida State because it had the best program for his likely major — computer forensics, for a future career in federal law enforcement — and also seemed like a place where he could compete for playing time right away under a defensive assistant, Odell Haggins, with whom he grew comfortable with during the recruiting process.
“It was a hard, hard decision,” said Levenberry, adding that he did not make his mind up for sure until about an hour before the press conference. “I was thinking about it all last night whether it would be Michigan or Florida State.”
Levenberry visited Tallahassee three times and said the Seminoles had been recruiting him since between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Levenberry played at DeMatha in his first two high school seasons and briefly attended Annandale before enrolling at Hylton last summer.
Levenberry also liked the idea of playing with local standouts Eddie Goldman, a senior All-Met offensive lineman from Friendship Collegiate, and Ron Darby, an honorable mention senior All-Met cornerback from Potomac (Md.), both of whom have committed to Florida State.
“I just felt like going [to my three finalist schools] multiple times it was just time to make a decision and get it over with,” Levenberry said, “and start getting ready for next football season and not worry about college.
“I was starting to feel the pressure from other colleges, and I didn’t want to lead anybody the wrong way. It was a business, and I understand that.”
Florida State cannot extend a formal, written scholarship offer until shortly before Levenberry’s senior year.
“I told him to go where his heart is, go where you feel you really want to be for the next four years,” said Eric Levenberry, E.J.’s father. “When the coach says get up at 5 in the morning to go run, this is where you chose to go to school.
“I would have loved to seen my son in a University of Maryland uniform. I’ve been taking him to Maryland games since he was about 4 or 5 years old. If [assistant coach] James Franklin had been given the head coaching job at Maryland, E.J. probably would have been a Maryland Terrapin.”
Franklin is now head coach at Vanderbilt.
“I feel for all the schools that were involved,” Hylton Coach Tony Lilly said. “You get an opportunity to have a player of this caliber and a class person in your program. It's hard when you’re not that [school].”
Levenberry, who like Brooks before him has been invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, last season made 151 tackles, batted down nine passes, forced eight fumbles, racked up four sacks and intercepted three passes.
Hylton finished 11-1 last season. The Bulldogs lost to Battlefield in the Virginia AAA Division 6 Northwest Region championship.
Unlike many of the top prospects in the area, Levenberry’s three finalists were all schools a long way from Washington. That was by design.
“I feel part of growing up and becoming a man is going away from home,” he said.
More recruiting coverage at AllMetSports.com
Database: Recruit Watch