Ron Darby smiled. He fidgeted in his chair and twiddled his thumbs. Just before the Potomac (Md.) cornerback prepared to announce his college plans by pulling a Florida State baseball hat over his flowing hair, Darby appeared anything but comfortable.
But while Darby was nervous, there was little drama across the Washington area on Wednesday for the beginning of the college football signing period. Darby and Friendship Collegiate All-Met lineman Eddie Goldman, as expected, signed with Florida State. Two-time All-Met defensive end Ken Ekanem of Centreville signed with Virginia Tech.
Even the bit of loose ends among the region’s top high school football players was not much of a surprise, with Good Counsel All-Met Defensive Player of the Year Stefon Diggs passing on the opportunity to sign a letter-of-intent with five classmates Wednesday morning at the Olney school. Diggs plans to make his college choice Feb. 10. He has an official visit to Maryland scheduled this weekend, though Florida is believed to be his most likely choice.
For a change, things went as expected throughout the area. Most of the area’s top seniors had already announced their college choices, so Wednesday was just an opportunity to cement those plans.
Although choosing the Hokies was expected after his official visit to Notre Dame this past weekend was canceled, Ekanem showed some flair in announcing his choice at a ceremony in the Centreville auditorium. After thanking his mother and others for support, he ducked beneath the podium and pulled out a Virginia Tech jersey adorned with his No. 4 to reveal his destination as “Enter Sandman” — the song to which the Hokies take the field for home games — played over the loudspeakers.
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament during the Wildcats’ loss in the Virginia AAA championship, said some schools were noncommittal after the injury. The Hokies’ unwavering support after the injury made his decision an easy one, Ekanem said.
“After my injury, Notre Dame came by and they were like, if the surgery doesn’t go as planned we won’t accept your commitment,” Ekanem said. “But everything went well and they kind of talked to me but then they backed off a little bit. Virginia Tech showed me more love after I had my injury. So it just gave me a lot of confidence in making the right decision.”
Notre Dame was Darby’s original choice; he committed to the Fighting Irish in April. But Darby continued to consider other options and he decommitted in January.
“I felt as though I wasn’t a priority to them,” Darby said. “Communication slowed down. They could have still checked on me.”
Darby considered Maryland, but wanted an opportunity to go away from home and run track. He is considered a national-caliber sprinter, but Maryland recently announced plans to cut its men’s track program.
That left Florida State, Clemson and Auburn under consideration. Darby said his stepmother, Jarina Darby, took away his cell phone Tuesday night so that he could make a decision without the influence of others.
“I had to look past the red carpet treatment and look at the program that could better me as a person,” Darby said.
Earlier in the day, at Friendship Collegiate, Goldman chose the Seminoles over Auburn and Alabama.
“I know the [Southeastern Conference] is like the NFL almost,” he said. “But I gotta do what I wanna do. Going to the SEC would have been good but I wouldn’t have been happy not [being] at Florida State. The ACC puts kids in the NFL, too.”
Mayor Vincent C. Gray attended part of the festivities at the public charter school in Northeast, where he noted that All-Met running back Albert Reid, who signed with Maryland, will be trying to elude Goldman in future years.
“I think these two young men will be playing against each other because they’re both in the ACC, right?” Gray said.
Staff writers Paul Tenorio and James Wagner contributed to this report.