Inside the Mind of 4-Star Isaiah Langley in His Final Hours Before Committing

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystJuly 11, 2014

Credit: 247Sports

Hours before one of the most monumental moments of his life, Isaiah Langley stood face to face with his hero.

He couldn't help but spill the beans.

"Richard Sherman was actually one of the only people who knew I was committing to USC," the high school senior said, still starstruck.

Langley let the Super Bowl champion in on a secret the rest of America would find out by the end of Tuesday. He was going to be a Trojan, and he was ready to tell the world about it on national television.

The California cornerback was one of more than 150 high school football prospects participating in The Opening, an annual event held at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, that showcases a high-profile coaching staff, expansive media coverage and intense competition between the stars of tomorrow.

Like his fellow participants, Langley spent Tuesday embarking on an action-packed three-day stretch of drills and games. Rated a 4-star prospect in 247Sports' composite rankings, the Foothill High School (California) senior came in contact with a vast collection of coveted recruits early and often during the opening day of action.

From celebrity encounters to an abundance of new gear, The Opening offered plenty of excitement beyond the field for its guests. Langley, joined in Beaverton by family members, provided Bleacher Report with a firsthand account of a day he'll never forget.

6:30 a.m.: Rise and Shine

When Langley woke up he was well aware Tuesday's events would change the dynamics of his life. His commitment announcement, scheduled to occur later that day live on ESPNU, had plenty of people speculating which college program the 5'11", 170-pound defender would pick.

"There were definitely some nerves from the start of the day," he admitted.

After grabbing a shower, Langley made his way to breakfast with roommate Bryce Love, an uncommitted running back from North Carolina who holds more than 20 scholarship offers. The two were paired up on Monday, when players arrived in Oregon for a campus tour, dinner and opening ceremony.

7 a.m.: Fuel Up

Breakfast featured an abundance of options for athletes aiming to store energy for a demanding day of physical activity. Langley passed on the French toast, loading his plate with bacon, eggs and fruit.

After hanging out with the talent-packed group of prospects for a short period, it was time to work.

Credit: 247Sports


8 a.m.: Bus Ride to SPARQ Testing

Sports companies are always examining new methods of measuring athleticism, so it's no surprise that global giant Nike appears to be ahead of the curve. Prospects invited to The Opening initially underwent SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing at regional camps, which helped them earn a ticket to Beaverton.

The test features four events, and each performance adds up to result in a final score. The vertical leap, shuttle run, kneeling power-ball toss and 40-yard dash present participants with a gauntlet of challenges.

There was mild tension in the air during a bus ride to the field, where 10 competitors would emerge as finalists for the SPARQ national championship, set to air from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on ESPNU. Some guys spent the trip conversing, while others zoned in with music.

Langley listened to "The Devil Is a Lie" from Rick Ross' 2013 album, Mastermind.

"That was on the top of my playlist," he said.

Upon arriving at the field, athletes spent time stretching and eventually worked their way through a circuit of tests. Langley wound up "scratching" his scores.

"They weren't what I thought they'd be," he said.

Langley wouldn't be one of the 10 finalists flashing their skills on national television, but the spotlight would still shine on him during the broadcast.

11:15 a.m.: Training Camp

Immediately after SPARQ testing, Langley and his peers headed to Ronaldo Field across campus for a two-hour session of positional drills. However, before they hit the grass it was time for a wardrobe change.

"Every time we turn around, we get new gear," Langley said.

Athletes went from SPARQ outfits to training camp attire, complete with new jerseys, shorts, cleats and everything in between. Langley came to Beaverton prepared from a luggage standpoint.

"I brought a big suitcase with nothing in it," he said. "I came ready. There was one shoebox, a few pairs of underwear, some socks and my hygiene stuff. Other than that, nothing. It’s already starting to get pretty full with all the Nike stuff."

He also picked up a different uniform for seven-on-seven games, which would get underway Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Isaiah Langley

Courtesy of Isaiah Langley

Training camp action included technical instruction, footwork drills and one-on-one coverage matchups that put Langley against several of America's premier wide receiver prospects. 

"Everyone wants to do their best in this situation, and there’s no doubt I was going to perform," he said. "It’s great competing against this level of talent. Plus, we had Richard Sherman coaching us up, which was awesome."

That's right. The self-acclaimed best cornerback in the NFL was in attendance and among several notable instructors patrolling the field. Former LSU Heisman Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu also provided defensive back royalty for players at the position.

"Having guys like Sherman and Honey Badger around you is special," Langley said.

“I told Sherman that he’s my idol," Langley said. "I was just like, ‘Look it up. In most of my interviews, I compare myself to you.' He played wide receiver for a long time and made the transition to cornerback like me. And now we’re both Pac-12 guys."

Langley let it slip he was heading to USC. The former Stanford standout congratulated him and discussed a man they both immensely appreciate.

"I told him how much I respect Pete Carroll," he said. "USC is what it is today because of Coach Carroll. Obviously he's meant a lot to Sherman too."

12:30 p.m.: Lunch with the McKenzies

Langley worked up quite an appetite after a morning filled with physical demands.

"Oh man, I ate a ton," he said. "There’s was so much stuff."

Langley scarfed down chicken, steak, potatoes and a milkshake, enjoying some time off his feet. He was joined by another coveted recruit at the lunch table.

Kahlil McKenzie, a 5-star defensive tackle from California, ate with Langley. His father, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, sat with them.

The dominant lineman was also scheduled to announce his commitment on ESPN during The Opening, with a decision between Tennessee and Arizona arriving Thursday. Langley's collegiate declaration was now just hours away, though he wasn't exactly sure when he would stare into the camera and reveal his choice.

"They told me it would be toward the end of the broadcast but I didn't know what time so I was a little anxious," Langley said.

5:00 p.m.: SPARQ Finals

Athletes changed into more relaxed attire and spent time touring more Nike facilities. Aside from the 10 SPARQ finalists, competition and drills were done for the day.

Meanwhile, Langley fielded some last-minute sales pitches from a few committed players.

"There’s definitely been a bunch of guys talking to me about joining their class," he said hours before his announcement. "Ricky Town (USC), Brady White (Arizona State) and a few others. But I only brought one hat so I guess some of them are going to be bummed."

By now, players were beginning to bond, sharing conversations on Ronaldo Field in anticipation of the nationally televised SPARQ finals. Langley saw some quickly go from strangers to friends, including Indiana linebacker Darrin Kirkland (Michigan commit) and Texas receiver Ryan Newsome (targeted by the Longhorns, UCLA, Notre Dame and Oregon).

As finals action continued, the television broadcast periodically teased Langley's commitment. The camera caught him on the field a few times, resulting in an outpouring of attention from friends, family and fans.

"I kept getting texts and tweets from a bunch of people," he said. "They were like, 'Oh my gosh, you’re on ESPN.' My phone was blowing up the whole time and people were telling me where they thought I should go to school. It was wild."

6:45 p.m.: Showtime

Finally, the moment arrived.

Langley was told to head up to the ESPN broadcast stage, joined by his family. It turns out his announcement would be the grand finale in a series of commitments Tuesday night.

"I didn’t realize I was going to be the last one," Langley said. "I was nervous but I just rolled with the punches and shared my decision."

With the red light on and football fans watching, it was time for his big reveal. Langley pulled out the only hat he brought—one with a USC logo—and placed it on his head.

Shouts of joy came from his smiling family, his father gave a fist-pump, and the kid from California was officially staying in state.


7 p.m.: Welcome to the Family

Langley made his way down a staircase from the stage, moments after Louisiana athlete Kirk Merritt edged out Virginia defensive end Josh Sweat for the title of SPARQ national champion.

Town was waiting below.

"Ricky was really one of the only people who knew where I was going beside my family and Sherman," Langley said. "He was pumped."

The 5-star quarterback prospect flipped to USC from Alabama in late January. The two embraced in a hug, acknowledging they'd work to win a title together for years to come.

Credit: Tyler Donohue

Cameron Smith, another USC commit, raced over from across the field. The 4-star linebacker gave Langley another welcome to the 2015 class.

The trio of prospects still have senior seasons to play in high school, but in that moment, it was clear they're already Trojans.

Town, Langley and Smith highlight USC's recruiting class.
Town, Langley and Smith highlight USC's recruiting class.Credit: 247Sports

Langley let USC head coach Steve Sarkisian know his plans earlier, though he gave him a slight scare at first.

"I called Sark and actually tried to trick him," he said. "I kind of made it sound like I wasn’t going to USC. I said, 'Unfortunately coach, my recruitment process is over. But look at the bright side—I’m ready to be a Trojan.' It was all good."

Other phone calls weren't quite as fun to make. He attempted to let his other college finalists know about his decision in advance but could only get through to Cal.

"Unfortunately, that’s the other part of it," Langley said. "This recruiting process is tough when it gets to this point. I tried reaching out to some of the teams this week but Utah and UCLA had to find out on TV."

Sarkisian wasn't the only one who dealt with a little trickery Tuesday. Fellow Southern California defensive back and seven-on-seven teammate Iman Marshall was played by Langley.

"After the announcement, I walked up to 'Biggie' with a big smile and he started yelling because he was surprised," Langley said. "I totally had him fooled. I told him I was going to Cal so he thought that was the plan."

The 5-star cornerback remains uncommitted and could join Langley in the Trojans secondary.

11:30 p.m: Lights Out

Curfew brought a close to an eventful day for Langley and company. Despite all the physical exertion, he wasn't ready to crash just yet.

A 7 a.m. Wednesday breakfast loomed large, but Langley took some time to savor the moment.

"It was really hard to fall asleep," he said. "I laid in bed so excited about everything. What a day."

All quotes obtained firsthand by B/R national recruiting columnist Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.


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