Since January, the scholarship offers have been arriving like clockwork for Fort Myers junior Darrian Felix.
He’s picked up nine over the last three months.
It’s made him one of the most pursued football players in Southwest Florida for the Class of 2017. Only, he hasn’t committed to a program heading into his senior year.
“They say how much they want me with their program, how good of a football player I am,” Felix says of the letters, much of it handwritten. “They say how good of a kid I am. They make me feel great as a player and a person.”
Felix has 21 official scholarship offers and more than 700 letters from programs across the country. More are likely to follow for the 5-foot-11, 189-pound all-purpose back who could play anything from running back to wide receiver to cornerback in college.
He’s still waiting for a few dream schools to come calling. Say … Alabama … Oregon … Clemson.
But by the summer, Felix says, he should know where his heart should take him. He has a road trip planned with his mother in the coming months, where he will visit colleges like West Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.
Fort Myers coach Sam Sirianni believes that’s the right decision.
“When will he commit?” Sirianni said. “I told him, you commit when, in your 100 percent heart and mind, you believe you’ve picked the place you want to go to. I don’t want my kids to throw a commitment out there to throw it out there.”
It all started in early January at the US Army National Combine, held in association with the US Army All-American Bowl that same week. Felix arrived in San Antonio ready to work.
While for some players combines are a chance to expose talents to major recruiters, for Felix it was a chance to pop.
His 40-yard dash time did the trick: 4.39 seconds.
“He loves to compete that way,” Sirianni said. “He has such a great skill-set, especially his jumping, his broad and vertical. He’s in the top 1 percent in the country with his vertical and broad jumps. That has some kind of subsidiary effect, when it comes to getting noticed.”
He also produced a 10 foot, 8 inch-broad jump and added a 40-inch vertical for good measure.
Kentucky came calling two weeks later with an offer on Jan. 21. Louisville offered on Feb. 12, then Boston College the next day, and then Rutgers just three days later.
Next came Nike’s annual combine, The Opening Regionals, which preludes the company’s signature event, The Opening, a selection of the best high school football players in the nation testing their physical skills in July in Oregon — North Fort Myers junior Zaquandre White, a Florida State commit, has been invited to the event.
Felix showed up for the Orlando outing on Feb. 21, over a month after the US Army Combine, and yet again rated among the best of the best. In fact, he was considered the best of the recruits, picking up a 128.76 rating.
With a 4.56 second 40-yard dash, a 4.09 second shuttle run, a 37-foot power ball toss and a 43-inch vertical, Felix landed right at No. 1 for the day in Orlando.
“I’m comfortable doing it, because I train with those things practically every day,” Felix said. “I’m comfortable knowing what I can do.”
It spurred a handful of offers within just a few days. Arizona handed out one on Feb. 25, Iowa State came next at March 2, then Central Florida on March 3.
The Maryland Terrapins, under new head coach DJ Durkin, represented perhaps the biggest name in the market for Felix. The Big 10 program offered him on March 10.
Colorado became the latest when they offered on April 6.
The period has at times been overwhelming, although not in the way you may think. Because coaches aren’t allowed to contact Felix until August, many circumvent the process by reaching out on Twitter.
Felix finds himself answering a college recruiter nearly every day.
“They’ll be like, ‘Oh do you have a minute,’” Felix said. “Can you talk? How was your day? Stuff like that.”
And the experience is already teaching Felix what it means to be wanted. At a visit to Clemson last year, a 6-year-old girl walked up to him and asked for an autograph.
“It was kind of weird, but exciting at the same time,” he said. “It’s just a funny feeling. It was my first time ever getting in that situation.”
The crazy part is that Sirianni believes Felix doesn’t even have all of the offers he should have.
He says some programs with lesser pedigrees are shy about offering scholarships, because they know they’re likely not in the running for Felix.
“He really probably has 20 more from people who know they wouldn’t have a chance to get him,” Sirianni said. “So when these kids say they have 20 offers, deep down they have 40 or 50 if you want the truth.”