With Stefon Diggs set to announce his college choice Friday night during an announcement celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. at a College Park restaurant/watering hole – an event that feels more like an NFL draft-day party than anything else – perhaps it is time to take a look back at other recent local recruiting circuses.
Sure, there was Cyrus Kouandjio’s Auburn-Alabama waffle last year, but Diggs’s coronation – I’m curious to see what the Good Counsel All-Met wears tonight and how things play out, it is sure to be a show – feels more like 2006, when Forestville All-Met offensive lineman Antonio Logan-El, who had twice committed to play for Maryland, declared he would accept a scholarship offer from Penn State.
(Note: I’m not suggesting at all that Diggs will spurn Maryland like Logan-El or that his college career will be a bust like Logan-El’s, just comparing the buildup and hype; remember, Kouandjio made his announcement at a news conference at school then went off to IHOP with his teammates.)
In 2006, just days after sitting courtside for a Maryland basketball game with noted Terps alum and ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt while wearing a Maryland jersey, Logan-El traveled to the ESPNZone in Baltimore to announce his choice. Several dozen Terps fans were in the restaurant, as well as a few Penn Staters, while Nittany Lions assistant coaches waited outside.
As Logan-El wore a red tie and sat in a studio to announce his choice, I chatted in a booth with Gloria Friedgen, wife of the then-Maryland coach, and one of her friends. At the time, ESPNU was a fledgling network, not widely available on cable systems and Ralph Friedgen, presumably on the road recruiting, was unable to tune in. So there was Gloria, with Ralph on the line, holding her cellphone up to a speaker at the table so Ralph could hear Logan-El’s decision in real time.
As soon as Logan-El said he wanted to be a Nittany Lion, Mrs. Friedgen grabbed her coat, asked for the check and was out the door. And Forestville Coach Charles Harley had learned his lesson.
“The mistake I made as his head coach, and I don’t know if force is the right word, but I should have made him come clean to me,” said Harley, who had four scholarship players on Maryland’s roster this past season. “I was so frustrated with the situation I let it get to me. It got too big and I took myself out to a degree. It’s never happened again.
“I regret all the time that it got too far out of hand,” Harley said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would find out who he is going with. If I knew it was Penn State, I would have scaled it down and I’d make sure Fridge’s wife isn’t there. I may have stolen some of his thunder and told them myself, but so be it.
“This is just me. If I know it’s not the local school, we will be really guarded on how we do it, where we do it. If I know he’s going to Maryland, maybe we’ll do it closer to campus so some fans can be there. But after you’ve been through it, that stuff gets old. It isn’t as much fun as it sounds.”
Logan-El, though, said he would not change anything that happened. He graduated from Towson last May and now lives in Largo, hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement, perhaps as an Arlington County deputy sheriff.
“Everything in life is a learning experience,” Logan-El said in a telephone interview Friday. “I learned a great deal from the way I handled my recruiting and everything like that. I don’t think I would do anything different. I loved the decision I made going to Penn State. The bond I made there could never be replaced. My whole recruiting experience was great. I talk to some guys now who didn’t have a great experience or deemed it a hassle with 10 or 15 coaches calling you every night.
“I was one of those guys who had fun with it. I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I ran with it and had fun with it.”
Considering how most Maryland fans received Logan-El’s decision – one person in attendance that afternoon in Baltimore immediately shouted “Traitor!” after Logan-El said he was going to Penn State – it might come as a surprise that Logan-El said he still pulls for the Terrapins.
“Believe it or not, most people probably wouldn’t expect me to say this, but I would like to see Stefon go to Maryland,” he said. “Things that happened in the past, I look at as having happened in the past. If Maryland could start getting guys in the DMV to stay and getting some of those hometown guys, Maryland could easily be a powerhouse.”
More on AllMetSports.com
Recruiting Spotlight video: