Stephen Collier threw for 1,887 yards and rushed for 485 more, accounting for 34 TDs (23 passing and 11 rushing), plus six two-point conversions last season for Lee County, and he was recently named a RISE Elite 11 finalist by ESPN.
LEESBURG — With more than 20 Division I offers already sitting on the table — and likely many more to come — Stephen Collier could’ve spent his senior season being courted and wooed by nearly every major college football program in the country.
But Friday, Collier sent a message to all but one of those schools: don’t bother.
The Lee County High School rising senior confirmed to The Herald late Friday evening that he’s headed to Ohio State to play for two-time BCS National Champion head coach Urban Meyer, ending a fast and furious recruiting process that saw Collier go from one of the Top 100 QBs in the nation to one of the Top 10 — all in just a few months.
“It’s been a whirlwind, it really has,” Collier said. “(Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom) Herman, my primary recruiter, and I really hit it off and had great chemistry. And coach Meyer ... well .. he’s coach Meyer. His reputation speaks for itself. It jut feels awesome to be a Buckeye right now.”
Collier, a 4.0 student, said his list of offers included Harvard — and it was hard to turn that one down.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s Harvard — it doesn’t get much better than that from an educational standpoint, but when I look to my future (in hopes of one day playing in the pros), I felt Ohio State was best for me,” said Collier, who is undecided on a major. “It was a family decision — and my family really loved Ohio State and how they were treated during our visit — and we felt this was a top-tier program and an offer we didn’t want to wait around to think about.”
Collier, who was born in Marietta but moved to Union, Ky., when he was five, actually grew up 2 1/2 hours from Ohio State’s campus before moving back to Georgia and landing in Leesburg when he was 13 after his mother’s job required a transfer to the Peach State. He said he wasn’t going to wait on offers from the school he once rooted for as a youngster — Georgia — and was fully committed to the Buckeyes.
“100 percent I’m going to Ohio State,” Collier said when asked if there was any chance he would change his mind should the Bulldogs or another high-profile school give him an offer between now and when he officially signs with the Buckeyes on National Signing Day in February.
Collier’s national profile grew by leaps and bounds recently when he was named one of the national finalists for the coveted ESPN RISE Elite 11 QB challenge following a tryout in Atlanta, becoming one of just two players from Georgia selected. He’s next headed to the grand opening of Niketown in Beaverton, Ore., on June 28-July 3 for a six-day experience dubbed “Football Heaven” by ESPN’s organizers, during which the nation’s No. 1 QB — in the eyes of the Elite 11 staff — will be named. Prior winners were Tim Tebow, Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford and Vince Young — three college stars who went on to pro careers.
Lee County coach Dean Fabrizio said Friday that the Elite 11 selection and the commitment to Ohio State are just the first steps in what should be a long and successful football career at the college level and beyond for Collier.
“We’re all so happy and proud of him,” Fabrizio said. “Ohio State is getting a great kid who has worked his way — worked his butt off, really — to get to this point. He’s put in the time and effort from the first day he got to Lee County when he moved here before his freshman season, and the development he’s shown during the past couple of years has been nothing short of amazing.
“(Friday) was just a tribute to that.”
Collier threw for 1,887 yards and rushed for 485 more, accounting for 34 TDs (23 passing and 11 rushing), plus six two-point conversions last season for Lee County. His mobility and arm strength — two crucial skills to have when it comes to playing the position these days — simply set him apart from all the rest of the Buckeyes’ QB recruits, and Collier likes his chances to compete for a major role the second he lands in Columbus, Ohio.
“Before I get there, I’ll be better than I am now because I’ll work just as hard, if not harder, than I have been. This is just the beginning,” he said. “I hope once I get up there, I’ll be able to compete for a starting spot. That’s the goal.”
Ohio State finished last season 12-0, including 8-0 in the Big Ten, but could not compete for a national title or in a bowl game because the program was placed on three years probation by the NCAA for multiple violations under its previous coach. Barring any future violations, by the time Collier arrives, the Buckeyes will be back in the national title picture.