Owen Pappoe entered Tuesday as one of the nation’s top football recruits in the Class of 2019. Hours later he still was, he just had the distinction of also being an Auburn Tiger.
Pappoe is the nation’s top-ranked linebacker and a top-10 overall prospect. He was recruited by just about every major program in the country and eventually decided to announce his college decision alongside three of his fellow highly-recruited teammates from Grayson (Ga.) High.
His final decision reportedly came down to Auburn and Georgia, and Pappoe told Rivals.com he actually made his decision weeks ago, then sat on it to keep it under wraps until Tuesday.
“I have been thinking about this for a long time, so it was really a pretty easy decision,” Pappoe told Rivals.com. “In my mind, I had it down to Auburn and Georgia, then in mid March, I knew where I wanted to go. I had made my decision.
“It came down to the comfort level at Auburn and how I can come in and make an immediate impact at linebacker. I could even start as a freshman, so that played into it some, but it really came down to how me and family feel about Auburn.”
While Pappoe was Grayson’s headliner, the event showcased four different elite prospects making their college announcements. In the end, all four chose to attend different schools, with three traditional SEC powers and one Big XII force all landing critical new members of the Class of 2019.
Of the other three elite Grayson recruits, offensive tackle Wanya Morris may be the most significant. A top-50 overall recruit, Morris chose Tennessee ahead of scholarship offers from all the SEC and a number of the nation’s most prominent programs.
Morris told 247 Sports he eventually chose between Tennessee and Auburn, with his decision coming down to his confidence in leading a program.
“… really, the deciding factor is, do I want to go into a program that’s already built or do I want to make my name for myself and build a program up? And I think I could be the face of this program and rebuild this program.”
Defensive end Kevin Harris made it three Grayson recruits to three different SEC schools when he announced a commitment to Alabama. Another four-star commit, Harris visited Tuscaloosa for Alabama’s spring scrimmage just more than a week ago and came to the conclusion that the Crimson Tide would set him up for success better than any other team.
“The culture, I like what they have there,” Harris told 247 Sports. “It’s kind of similar to my school. We keep everything the same way, we don’t have to get all fancy or nothing. We practice and play like we’re No. 1. That’s how it is at Bama. Just the work ethic and everything, the coaching staff, it’s everything that I need to take it to the next level.”
The lone member of the Grayson quartet who won’t be playing in the SEC come 2019 will be Kenyatta Watson II, the four-star cornerback who opted for Texas over a whopping 39 other scholarship offers.
For Watson, the decision was all about family and the feeling of comfort that he had when on campus in Austin.
“I chose Texas over Notre Dame and I really settled my heart on Texas a couple of weeks ago,” Watson told Rivals.com. “It was really 50-50 for me for a little while, but Texas is the school for me. I really like how the conference they play in allows a lot of defensive backs to be involved and the coaching staff there. I have kind of fallen in love with the staff at Texas. I love Austin too. I am a kid and I like to go out and get my mind off things and it is a great place to be with a lot to do.
“Texas has been a top school for me for a while and my visits out there have been great,” said Watson. “The way the coaches there have gotten to know not just me, but my family has really stood out to me. They talk to my mom, they talk to my dad and the coaches have really been impressive. They have made me and my family feel welcome out there.”
Now all four stars get to return to putting the focus where it should be: back on the field.