His dad is known for regulatin’. Olaijah Griffin is known for celebratin’ … after tackles and interceptions.
Griffin, a five-star cornerback from Mission Viejo (Calif.) who earlier committed to UCLA, is the son of legendary rapper Warren G. He’s also now a USC Trojan following his National Signing Day commitment announcement that included a popped balloon with gold confetti. In attendance was his more famous father and family friend Snoop Dogg.
Griffin was among a handful of five-star players to sign with their future schools on National Signing Day. In all, 16 members of the USA TODAY High School Sports Composite Top 100 Players signed Wednesday, with the other 84 signing during the inaugural Early Signing Period in December.
Still, Wednesday’s signings included the theatrical, the unexpected and the downright bizarre.
The parade of prospects started at South Florida power American Heritage, a star-studded program that finished the season at No. 3 in the USA TODAY Super 25. While the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 overall cornerbacks — Patrick Surtain Jr., who picked Alabama, and Tyson Campbell, who chose Georgia — stole much of the luster, it was their teammate Nesta Silvera who stole the headlines.
Silvera, a Miami commit who followed through despite being wooed by Florida, made his announcement while holding a Chucky doll from the Child’s Play horror series. Miami has no tradition of celebrating with the doll, but Silvera seemed to think it fit his character.
Then he opened up about what drove him to stay close to home:
“What it was about Miami, is just Miami is home, it’s the crib,” Silvera told ESPN. “What I can do here, I can go to Tuscaloosa, I can go to Gainesville, I can go to Tallahassee and make those schools great, but why not make the crib great?”
While Silvera’s use of a prop was a bit odd, he certainly wasn’t alone. Tommy Bush, a Texas wide receiver who lands just outside the USA TODAY High School Sports Composite Top 100, announced his commitment to Georgia by holding up his infant niece dressed in a Georgia onesie. The baby was not pleased. Perhaps she’s a Baylor fan? Solomon Tuliaupupu, the ALL-USA Defensive Player of the Year, committed to USC behind a King Kong statue.
Then there was Devon Williams, a four-star wide receiver who picked USC … but so confused his high school band that they started playing the UCLA fight song.
Most families were thrilled with the momentous decisions being made by their athletically gifted children. Not so much the mother of Jacob Copeland. A four-star wide receiver from Escambia (Fla.), Copeland decided to keep his talents in state, which apparently didn’t please mom, who was decked out in an Alabama sweatshirt and Tennessee toque.
She got up and left ESPN’s live video shot as soon as Copeland picked up the Florida hat and didn’t return during the subsequent interview of her son. Another woman wearing an Alabama T-shirt also got up and moved to the rear of the televised announcement after Copeland made his decision.
While those notable commitments brought smiles or groans along with them, many other top players made decisions under more prosaic circumstances. The nation’s top offensive tackle, Nicholas Petit-Frere, chose Ohio State from his high school in Orlando. Four-star Maryland offensive tackle Rasheed Walker, who was also high on Ohio State, picked Penn State instead. Four-star Lousiana WR JaMarr Chase decided to stick around and attend LSU. And Tanner McKee, a four-star quarterback from California, chose to commit to Stanford even though he won’t arrive on campus for two years; he’s off to fulfill a Mormon mission first.
And then there were the flips.
As has become tradition, a few elite players defected from long-held commitments at the 11th hour, instead opting for another national power. On Wednesday, the most notable flip came from four-star outside linebacker Quay Walker, who defected from national champion Alabama for national runner-up Georgia (and threw a Tennessee hat farther than an Olympic discus in the process). If no one saw Walker’s decision coming, the one made by Lee (Ga.) outside linebacker Otis Reese was somewhat more predictable, leaving Michigan’s recruiting class for a spot at Georgia.
Last but not least, for the second time on a signing day in the 2018 recruiting window (the first being the opening of the Early Signing Period), Clemson went into another power program’s home state and stole its top recruit. Coach Dabo Swinney won over then-top offensive tackle prospect Jackson Carman from Fairfield (Ohio) in the early window and Wednesday closed on Alabama’s top recruit, wide receiver Justyn Ross, who chose the Tigers over Alabama and Auburn.
As for Griffin, the 6-foot, 170-pound cornerback might have the talent to be to college football what his father was to rap. He is an uber-athletic prospect with a fierce work ethic.
“I was always in love with USC,” Griffin said. “After I talked to coach Helton I was always interested in USC.
“The challenges (of being yourself) are real tough, but at the end of the day I worked hard, tried so hard for this and once I did (see the results) I felt real good.”
The Under Armour All-American capped his high school career with 49 tackles, two for a loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.
If he can contribute numbers like that in the years ahead, he might get the chance to play on Sundays. Based on the sheer bulk of athletes making their decisions on Wednesday, he won’t be the only one, either.