Sitting in the stands at Oak Park High School (Mich.), proudly wearing a University of Kentucky shirt, former Oak Park offensive lineman Marquan McCall waited to hear the words.
And once he did — after an hour-long buildup to Justin Rogers’ college football commitment — it was sweeter than he expected.
At Monday’s ceremony inside the Oak Park gym, Rogers, a 4-star offensive guard and the state’s top-ranked 2020 recruit — per the 247Sports Composite — made a verbal pledge to Kentucky, reuniting him with his “brother,” McCall, in Lexington.
Seconds after the announcement — which was delayed by a problem setting up Rogers’ pre-made video leading up to his decision — McCall rushed from the stands to celebrate with his past, and presumably his future, teammate.
“I told him, ‘It’s a family. They’re going to care of you; I’m going to take care of you,’” said McCall, a 4-star recruit in 2018. “I was thinking about Kentucky in 10th grade, and I said to him, ‘I might go there, so you should come play with me, too.’”
Rogers (6-foot-2, 311 pounds), the No. 1 offensive guard in the nation, per the 247Sports Composite, picked Kentucky over Georgia, where he made a recent official visit. Former Oak Park quarterback Dwan Mathis signed with Georgia in February after flipping from Ohio State and Michigan State.
Rogers also considered Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU and Tennessee. The Wolverines made a late push, led by new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, but it wasn’t enough.
“It came down to Georgia and Kentucky,” Rogers said. “Those are some great programs. Georgia is a great program. The decision wasn’t that hard because I felt comfortable with (Kentucky).”
The Wildcats separated themselves during Rogers’ recruitment, building a strong relationship with him, his family and the coaching staff at Oak Park, including head coach Greg Carter.
Along with signing McCall and getting Rogers’ commitment, Kentucky also is in the running for Oak Park athlete Enzo Jennings, a 4-star 2020 prospect and the state’s No. 2 player behind Rogers.
“We’ve got a longtime relationship with the assistant coach who recruits this area, coach (Steve) Clinkscale,” Carter said of the pipeline from Oak Park to Lexington. “He does a fantastic job, our kids really feel comfortable with him. I’m not surprised Justin chose Kentucky.”
Despite his potential as an offensive guard in college, there have been reports Rogers could switch positions at the next level, possibly to the interior defensive line. He was a two-way player at Oak Park last season, also excelling at linebacker.
Jennings, who plans to make his verbal commitment in the next couple months, wouldn’t be surprised to see Rogers anywhere.
“Justin can play corner, receiver, linebacker, wherever,” joked Jennings, who listed Notre Dame, Penn State and Kentucky as his current favorites. “He can play any position. I’ve played with him on the field.”
Even though Kentucky looks to be getting a difference-making talent in Rogers, some recruiting analysts believe he could be a candidate to flip before December’s early signing period.
But even if that happened, it would likely be to another Southeastern Conference school.
“I got the sense early that he wanted to play in the SEC,” said Steve Lorenz, a recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “Until a month or two ago, everybody thought he was going to Georgia. From my perspective, the SEC has always been in the back of his mind.
“I think those other SEC schools will stay involved (with Rogers’ recruitment). The question from my end is, will Michigan keep going with him? I figure they will.”
As for Jennings — who wore a Kentucky shirt after Rogers’ announcement — he’ll be getting more calls and texts from McCall and Rogers.
“As soon as possible, as soon as he wants to talk to me,” Rogers said of selling Jennings on Lexington. “He’s definitely going to be the next one to make that trip.”