By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 8, 2007
Dressed in a black pinstriped suit, Marvin Austin walked into the ESPN Zone restaurant downtown shortly after noon yesterday carrying a 12-by-12-inch black briefcase with silver clasps and a lock that was keyed shut.
"My life's in here," said the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Ballou All-Met defensive tackle, his blue-and-white-striped tie giving a subtle hint to the briefcase's contents.
About a half-hour later, Austin unlocked the briefcase, and in front of live television cameras, took out a North Carolina cap.
The Tar Heels landed a signed letter-of-intent from one of the nation's top recruits yesterday, the first day senior football players were allowed to make their college commitments official. Austin's other finalists included Florida State, Tennessee and Southern California.
Even though Austin attracted plenty of attention over the past two years, his recruitment picked up steam in recent few weeks, as most of the other elite prospects revealed their choices. It turned out that Austin hadn't made up his mind until Jan. 31.
North Carolina was a late entry into Austin's recruitment, becoming a possibility only after the Tar Heels turned over their program in November to former University of Miami and Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis.
"They know what they're looking for in the pros," Austin said, "and they know how to get them there."
Austin said North Carolina's recent struggles (the Tar Heels went 3-9 last season and have gone 19-40 since 2002) didn't concern him.
"When I went down there and met Coach Davis, it was a new beginning," Austin said.
"Before Pete Carroll got the USC job, they weren't the USC they are now. When a new coach comes in, it's a good situation.
"People get into the name game but personally, wherever I go, I'm going to be successful because of my work ethic and morals."
When Davis hired former Oklahoma coach John Blake as his top assistant and defensive line coach on Dec. 15, Austin said the Tar Heels became a strong possibility.
"The stuff he can teach me can put me off the charts," Austin said.
Davis said: "We got into the situation with him obviously very late. Certainly John Blake's relationship with him and his credibility as a [defensive line] coach helped."Lazear Remains Unsigned
Wheaton linebacker Pat Lazear, the Washington area's other uncommitted high-profile recruit prior to yesterday, still has not signed a letter-of-intent.
"You'll hear it soon," said Lazear's father, Harry.
In December, Lazear pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery in connection with the robbery of a Bethesda Smoothie King store last March.
He was sentenced to 10 days in jail, 30 days of house arrest and also received a 10-year suspended sentence.
While most colleges stopped recruiting Lazear once he was charged, West Virginia was among those that pursued him throughout the fall. . . .
Other area players who signed letters-of-intent or committed yesterday include: Flint Hill's Emani Felton (Cornell); Gonzaga's Alex Johnston (Dayton), Evan Shields (Rhode Island), Joey Orfini (San Diego State) and Alex Johns (Dartmouth); Kerby Long, who played at Fork Union following a career at Yorktown (James Madison); Urbana's Matt Ray (Towson); Yorktown's Matt Stotler (Columbia); and O'Connell's Jordan Trimble (Army).
Staff writer Josh Barr contributed to this report.