For Nordin and his family on Wednesday, it was as real and understated as it could get for the nation’s No. 1-ranked kicker when he signed his national letter of intent in front of a large gathering of family and friends at his suburban Grand Rapids home.
OK, so there were a few reporters and television cameras around and then a live stream video chat with Michigan. But other than that, it was an understated day for the 17-year-old Rockford High kicker who received his first scholarship offer at age 13 to play lacrosse and football at Delaware.
With his parents, Bruce and Heidi, and his older sister, Gabrielle, at his side — and Charlie, his 8-year-old yellow Labrador at his feet — Nordin announced his choice as his home erupted in cheers and everyone broke out the U-M clothing.
No stunts this time for Nordin. Just a signature at 11:06 a.m.
“I was ready to do this,” he said. “Look at everyone, it’s ridiculous. Everyone’s in their Michigan gear. This is home. This is awesome. This is what I believe in.”
Nordin’s decision came down to U-M, Southern Cal and Penn State. USC was especially appealing. Nordin wants to be a sports broadcaster after he’s done kicking and USC has a renowned communications program, plus a beautiful campus, gorgeous weather and special-teams coach John Baxter, who left Michigan in January.
“I planned all along that I wanted to play for him,” Nordin said. “He was a great role model for me. Kicking-wise, he knew what he was doing. And I was ready to go play for him. Probably the last three days here, probably two days ago I decided I was going to go to Michigan really. But I was thinking about going USC. I came back (from my visit). It’s a gorgeous town there with coach (Clay) Helton.”
But Nordin’s decision ultimately came down to one thing. Or, more accurately, one man. It came down to Jim Harbaugh, who set college football on fire when he slept over at Nordin’s home Jan. 15.
“People don’t understand how good of a guy he really is,” Nordin said. “He respects everyone. He never talks bad about any school. He just wants the best players on his team and he’s going to do what it takes, within the rules, to get those players. As you can tell, he slept over my house and I’m going to Michigan, so it’s really exciting stuff.”
Heidi Nordin was emotional when she told everyone gathered around her what Harbaugh meant to the family.
“Obviously, you all know coach Harbaugh is an awesome man,” she said with a quiver in her voice. “You have no idea. I know he gets a bad rap, but he is an awesome, awesome man.”
In college football recruiting, they say if you get mom, you get the kid. And Harbaugh definitely got mom when she accompanied her son on his official visit to U-M.
“I need a coach that believes in my kid, like really believes in my kid,” Heidi Nordin said. “And you can feel it and see it in someone’s eyes, you can feel it in their heart. You have to talk to me.
“And he said to me — we were at a bowling alley — and we were sitting there and he came up to me. I said, ‘I don’t know. It’s Michigan. I don’t if he can — it’s Michigan.’ And he said, ‘You know what I have a hard time believing? That you don’t think he can’t do it here.’ ”
Harbaugh probably could have signed Heidi Nordin right there. But she still didn’t want to sway her son’s decision. She and her husband wanted the decision — for better or worse — to be their son’s.
“Literally, your mind is open,” she said. “Buddy, it’s beautiful. This is the great thing about this school, this is the great thing about that school. We stayed neutral as parents. And we told him we were going to drive eight hours to Penn State. What’s a four-hour flight (to USC)? We’ve got this. Probably a few less games.”
As Quinn Nordin looked around his house, surrounded by the people closest to him, he was visibly relieved a four-year process had finally come to an end.
“It’s been a long, long process,” he said. “Coach Harbaugh has never really pressured me. He never put on the pressure, unlike other schools. So it was kind of unique. I kept thinking, ‘Maybe this is right.’ After my official visit, my mom was really big in deciding. She loves him, as you can tell.
“So there’s no doubt that was the place for me. It’s close to home. Distance wasn’t that much of a factor, but now my family and friends can go to games.”
Nordin has said that he expects to compete with fifth-year senior Kenny Allen for the kicking job this fall.
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