Friendship Collegiate linebacker Yannick Ngakoue waited until the very last minute to make his college decision, so it was fitting that at Wednesday’s signing ceremony in Northeast, he was the last of 20 Knights’ prospects to announce his selection. Ngakoue stepped to the lectern, and after a short speech, pulled a Maryland hat from a backpack — and the suspense was finally over.

All-Met linebacker Yannick Ngakoue burst onto the recruiting scene this fall. (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The 6-3, 235-pound Ngakoue is a Terp after all, picking his hometown program over Florida State in a packed gym at the D.C. charter school.

Within a 24-hour span in mid-June 2012, Ngakoue joined Friendship teammates Derwin Gray and Cavon Walker in orally committing to Maryland, but he backed out of that commitment and re-opened his recruitment later in the summer before. He will join high school teammates Gray, Walker and Jermaine Carter next fall in College Park.

“My mother. . . I wanted her to see me play,” Ngakoue said of the decision to stay close to home. “And also I wanted to ball for my city, because Maryland has been the underdog for a long time, and I know if all my teammates stay, and the next class stayed, 2014, 2013 and so on, we would have a national championship team.”

Ngakoue burst onto the recruiting scene this fall, where he posted 17 sacks and returned two fumbles for touchdowns – leading Friendship Collegiate to the DCSAA championship. The first-team All-Met pick also earned a spot in the Under Armour All-America Game – and by the time he arrived in St. Petersburg, Fla., last month, he had already established himself as one of the more intriguing prospects in the D.C. area.

Ngakoue said he made the decision a “couple of months ago,” but still made official visits to Florida State and South Carolina in January. On Tuesday, he contacted the coaching staffs at both schools to reveal his decision, and by Wednesday morning, he listed Florida State and Maryland as his top two choices. He expressed excitement about playing alongside his high school teammates in College Park, but said it was not a factor in the ultimate decision — and even Gray was at times unsure of his friend’s intentions.

“Me and Yannick, we are real close,” Gray said. “Sometimes he kinda scared me. Most of the time I was confident he was coming to Maryland.”

At times during Wednesday’s ceremony, Ngakoue would laugh with his teammates on the stage – but for the most part, he remained stoic. And he looked exhausted, adding after the signing that the social media buzz on Twitter was the most difficult part of his process. Staying close to home, and his inner circle, was key.

“I would’ve went to Florida State and stuff like that, but I just had a good feeling about Maryland,” Ngakoue said. “I always knew I was going to go to Maryland. . . just kept it quiet.”

View Photo Gallery: Good Counsel’s Kendall Fuller, Stone Bridge’s Jonathan Allen and E.J. Levenberry of Hylton are among those who will make their college commitments official by signing letters of intent on Wednesday.

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Earlier on Recruiting Insider: Friendship’s Ngakoue to Commit

Yannick Ngakoue on Twitter

2012 All-Met football team: Defense

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