Donovan Peoples-Jones got his chance to shine in the national spotlight Thursday night.
Piece of cake, right?
“I didn’t want to mess up,” he said of making his college football commitment live on ESPN2. “I was real nervous.”
The Detroit Cass Tech senior and five-star receiver conquered the moment, pulling a Michigan cap from under his seat at the Channel 7 studio in Southfield and declaring his allegiance to coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines.
“I always wanted to commit on ESPN,” Peoples-Jones said Friday at Cass Tech. “It was exciting.”
Peoples-Jones, the Free Press’ preseason No.1 player and a Dream Team selection who narrowed his finalists to Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, kept his decision a secret from almost everybody, including his parents, Eddie and Roslyn.
As the moment drew closer Thursday night, his supporters waited in suspense. Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher and principal Lisa Phillips were among those who attended the announcement.
“We were so excited, and the producer continued to tell the adults, ‘You got to be quiet,’” Phillips said Friday. “When Donovan said it was Michigan, we were screaming like children. We were so excited.”
Wilcher, a former football player and track standout at Michigan, rushed to hug Peoples-Jones, putting himself on live television, too.
“I had an inkling that he would choose Michigan, but I was never sure because he always had questions,” Wilcher said. “Once I knew where he was going, you still want to hear him say it. People that didn’t know were sweating.”
Michigan had been considered a favorite to land the state’s top recruit, but a late push by Ohio State and his interest in Florida State made the final decision interesting. Peoples-Jones (6 feet 2, 193 pounds) is the nation’s No.13 overall recruit by Rivals.com, and the No.2 receiver behind Alabama commit Jerry Jeudy of Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Peoples-Jones ultimately chose the Wolverines, leaving him with no buyer’s remorse.
“I trusted my gut feeling,” he said. “It was a real hard decision. I was down to three schools, and it was very hard to decipher through which ones. But I made the right decision.”
Peoples-Jones, who believes Harbaugh is one of college football’s top coaches, also was impressed by Michigan’s academics. He plans to enroll in medical school and hopes to become a sports medicine doctor when his football career is finished.
“I have a great connection with the doctors at Michigan,” said Peoples-Jones, who will graduate from Cass Tech this month, making him eligible to begin college classes in January. “It’s hard getting into medical school, but with the right connections and right criteria, it’s definitely possible.”
Peoples-Jones will have some familiar faces with him in Ann Arbor. Cass Tech teammate and three-star defensive back Jaylen Kelly-Powell and Detroit King defensive back Ambry Thomas, a four-star prospect, are Michigan commitments. Kelly-Powell and Thomas are cousins.
“It definitely makes my transition easier,” Peoples-Jones said. “I’ve known those guys for years. I can trust those guys, and we share the same interests.”
Kelly-Powell, who committed to Michigan last month, dropped a few hints to his friend and teammate.
“Every now and then, I’d be like, ‘Go Blue,’ just to see how he would react,” Kelly-Powell said. “It’s cool going to Michigan together and competing. It will be a great atmosphere, and we’re going to have fun.”
Cass Tech, which has nine players committed to Division I college football programs, finished 14-0 and won the Division I state title in November.
Cass Tech Division I FBS commitments:
Kelvin Ateman Jr., OL, Toledo
Desean Boyd, LB, Eastern Michigan
Otis Doss, LB, Florida A&M
Rodney Hall, QB, Northern Illinois
Donovan Johnson, DB, Penn State
Jaylen Kelly-Powell, DB, Michigan
Zach Morton, DE, Syracuse
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Jordan Reid, OL, Michigan State