As a high school senior, my driving principles in choosing a place to go to college were:
(This is not the actual order of these principles. Not even close.)
While there are many universities that would meet that embarrassing list of requirements, I don't think anywhere covers them as fully as the University of Miami. Seventh Floor Crew II is going to blow up on Spotify, man.
My mom was a student worker in the Berkeley athletic department and had two free tickets to the Big Game the year that The Play happened.
She scalped them.
As she sat in a shop on Telegraph Avenue and heard the roar from the stadium getting louder, she began to sense the magnitude of her mistake.
Will I bowl over a Stanford trombonist? Will charming young people in crimson weep in the stands? Will I leave the raggedy Stanford Tree bawling on the sidelines, clutching its splintery heart? Yes. I will, Mom, because I love you.
I grew up in Austin. My dad went to Texas. My family grew up going to Texas games. And my parents love Charlie Strong. I think there'd be a ton of pressure to stay at home.
But as a former teenager who loved logo and uniform evolution, Oregon would have a ton of appeal. The historical superpowers -- the Alabamas, Ohio States -- would also have significant draw. My mom went to LSU, and her kin in Louisiana are lifelong fans there.
I imagine 18-year-old me would be as myopic as possible and laser-focused on playing professionally. I'd be hard-pressed to turn down any school I perceived as giving me the best chance to make it to the NFL. And if they'd be perennial contenders, all the better for a bandwagon-loving teenager. Roll Tide.
There are so many great choices, but I don't think any school offers the same combination of athletics, academics and weather as the Cardinal.
Being from Florida, I'd obviously check out the Florida schools, and Alabama is getting a visit. And if I made a visit to Georgia and realized what an awesome college town Athens is, Stanford might be in trouble. I would not consider a school in a region with awful weather, though.
I would probably have picked between Oregon, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa. I'm a Northerner, so Ohio State and Michigan have all the prestige, and as a native Iowan, it would be tough for me to pass up the Hawkeyes.
But the way Oregon does things is mystifying, and I'm sure I would be drawn in by the facilities and atmosphere in Eugene. Plus, Oregon football sounds like a ton of fun.
I was fairly academically inclined and into the romantic notion of getting as far away from home as possible. Since I'm from the Northeast, that means Pac-12 teams.
Stanford offers a good mix of academics and a style of football I deeply enjoy, especially since tight end was my favorite position. That offense is 11 tight ends inflicting damage on the unfortunate. Well, it's supposed to be, anyway.
I also give real consideration to Oregon, UCLA and Arizona.
Eighteen-year-old me was the most pretentious person imaginable, so it'd be some place infatuated with its own Quality. Because 18-year-old me was also very stupid, I would consider none of the following:
Kind of person who goes to that school
Whether I actually liked this place
Proximity to home
Whether this was actually the kind of education I needed or wanted
Where to get food
If buildings had doors and roofs
If six months of cloud cover would drive me to harm someone
So, 18-year-old football me is going to Notre Dame, dropping out due to depression after a year and a half, then transferring to Texas, where everything is sunny and great and not South Bend, Indiana.
I tried to come up with a school other than Ohio State, so I didn't seem like a homer, but let's be realistic. I knew all the words to the fight song by the time I was old enough to speak.
That said, high school me hated Ohio weather. This is why I live in Atlanta and will never again live in Ohio. I would have considered USC and probably Miami, but my lifelong love of the Buckeyes and the fear of my parents disowning me would have pushed me toward Ohio State anyway.
I really do think I would love playing for Urban Meyer. I was a receiver in fourth grade flag football, and I could probably slide right into that Jalin Marshall role.
I grew up less than 15 minutes from the Horseshoe, in a Big Ten household. My Dad is a Penn State alum, but still liked the Buckeyes. I would have taken visits to schools like Houston (post-2015) or somewhere in the Pac-12 and considered somewhere close to a beach.
My Ohio State loyalty would stop me from playing at an SEC school or other Big Ten program and would keep me in Columbus, close enough for my Italian mom's cooking (worth it!) and the occasional laundry dump.
It's easy to be a homer when Urban Meyer is the coach, the team has a championship and position depth for at least the next three seasons. I'd love to play special teams or cornerback.
I grew up 40 minutes away from Ohio State's campus. But this isn't a slam dunk, and maybe a good bag man would be able to talk me out of it.
I was a pretty academically oriented high schooler, and a chance to play at Stanford -- which combines high-level football, a path to the NFL and superior academics -- would be difficult to pass up. But I was a homebody. Hypothetical me would have still wanted to take official visits to Stanford, Wisconsin, Northwestern and BYU (my parents would make me).
I wouldn't be good enough to make it in the NFL, and I'd really just look for a good academic program within reasonable distance of Pittsburgh, my hometown. Any football acumen on the part of the school would be a bonus.
Ann Arbor is an amazing college town. I've got some high school friends who have gone there, and there's no campus I like visiting more. I would consider schools like North Carolina and Miami, but I'm not any kind of Southerner, and I think I'd be less of a social misfit in Michigan.
I'd probably be a long snapper, and the Wolverines could use that help.
As an LA native who has no regrets about attending Oregon, I'd happily split the difference and choose Stanford, after taking trips to Texas, Georgia and Oregon. After 17-year-old me sees the Texas girls, BBQ and tacos, it'd be almost impossible to say no, though after attending a particularly humid camp, I'd cross it off the list.
The combination of Stanford's high-level coaching continuity, academics and professional connections, weather (not cold! no humidity!), location (45-minute flight, six-hour drive home) and an experience without the more rabid elements of college football, the choice is an easy one for one five-star QB.
Also, I spent a couple of summers in high school at Stanford's tennis camp (three-star high school tennis player), so I'm familiar with the Palo Alto area, an added bonus.
The only two schools I had any rooting interest in growing up were my parents' alma maters, Washington State and Columbia. I would give Wazzu a long look, but don't think either of those would be in the final discussion.
I have, however, always loved Seattle, which would make Washington a contender. Some others I would want to see would be Arizona, Clemson, LSU and USC.
Plus, my mother's side of the family would get to see me play regularly. Go Huskies.
I always prided myself on being unique in high school (i.e. insufferable). I listened to unpopular music, wore clothes from Salvation Army and tried to either avoid trends or start them (unsuccessfully).
So, being an awful teenager with a Duke alumnus for a father, I would have given David Cutcliffe's pitch a hard listen. If Bama was 1999 Red Hot Chili Peppers and Texas was Third Eye Blind, I would have gone with college football's Soul Coughing. Give me a tiny stadium and an apathetic fan base as long as I can tell my friends I wasn't going to be like the rest of those five-star conformists.
I grew up in LA, and my dad was a UCLA fan, but there's no way I'm playing for Jim Mora.
I certainly would choose to return to LA. Even though we rooted against USC when I was growing up, there was always something appealing about the tradition of success. And I'm a sucker for the weather.
I was raised a Georgia Tech fan, and the smart move for anyone would be Stanford. But I didn't notice academics until I was a junior in college, meaning those are out.
So the thinking is as follows:
Thus, superpowered me looks at the current Southern DBUs. Also, my head coach must be a weird person for whom a team would march into Hell. Bizarre cuisine and a distinct regional hip-hop tradition appreciated.
And teenage me gave zero thought to details like the coach maybe being fired or the team already having eight DBs more talented than even a Spider-Man version of me or other potential concerns, so let's charge into the future without care. I'm majoring in whatever. Geaux Tigers.
My family moved around when I was in high school. I ended up finishing in Mississippi. But my freshman and sophomore years were in Prince William County, a big old American mess of a suburb outside of Washington, D.C.
So I'm goin' to Gobbler Country. To punt. I know this is a hypothetical in which I'm imbued with enough talent to be a sought-after recruit, but even in the abstract, that feels ridiculous.
So allow to me to do one goofy thing and do it well, glomming up the same praise heaped upon those special teams mercenaries who defined Beamer Ball's golden run. I still get to:
And even if Frank Beamer's gone, I might get to run for a first down, then parlay that glory into some kind of rural public office in Southwestern Virginia. Then I pick up bribery and trafficking, evolving into a Justified villain. Go Hokies.