Luke Del Rio, three-star quarterback from Valor Christian in Denver, Colo., turned down scholarship offers to walk-on at the University of Alabama. The son of an NFL coach talked of the reasons why he will move to Tuscaloosa next month as an early enrollee.
"It really came down to comfortability," said Del Rio. "My sister goes to Alabama. My other two sisters went to LSU. We have a house four hours away from Tuscaloosa. It was just the best overall fit for me.
"Coach Saban and coach Nussmeier are great. They consistently bring in outstanding recruits. They are outstanding recruiters. They have a current tradition of success and in the past. It's a stable program, so that is not an area of concern. All of those factors with the academics were a big part of it all. I know about 25 people who go there. I am very comfortable."
Del Rio originally committed to Oklahoma State and re-opened his recruitment last week after Cowboys' offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, accepted the head coaching job at Southern Miss. Monken was also a close family friend. Del Rio turned down scholarship offers from Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Southern Miss. He was also on the verge of landing an offer from UCLA.
"That was a big decision for me," Del Rio said of turning down offers and deciding to walk-on. "It wasn't really a big deal to me. I know for others it probably shocked them. I am not afraid of walking on and earning a scholarship.
"After doing my homework I felt like Alabama was the best fit for me. I wasn't going to pass on the best fit. If I didn't have the preferred walk-on offer I probably wouldn't have done it. I plan on enrolling early. I'll be there January 7."
Del Rio is accustomed to the way of life in Tuscaloosa. He has attended a couple of camps and games throughout his high school career.
"I went my freshman and sophomore year to their camp," he said. "I loved it. I fell in love with the place. I got a rude awakening though from coach Scott Cochran. He was screaming at seven in the morning. We figured he would lose his voice, but the next day he was still screaming. I went to the LSU game last year, the game of the century, and I went to the Mississippi State game this year.
"I really don't think there is an atmosphere that can get any better. For me it's perfect. They play on a national stage weekly. They really develop you as a person and a player second. They also develop you as a student. They graduate a tremendous amount of players. That was a plus when I started to compare schools."
The Crimson Tide is seeking to win its third national championship in the past four years in January against Notre Dame. Del Rio knows it's a tough challenge.
"I think it will be a good game," Del Rio said. "They are salty on defense. They play extremely well as a team with Manti Te'o being who he is. He has a great faith foundation that led him through the tragedy. He was extremely impressive and played his best game a couple of days after his girlfriend and grandmother died.
"Notre Dame has been stout against the run. Alabama will try to establish the run. I think it will come down to their secondary and Alabama in the passing game. AJ [McCarron] and Amari Cooper will have to come up big. I am looking forward to the game. Of course I think Alabama is going to win."
Alabama has two quarterbacks committed in this class with Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod. Del Rio looks forward to the competition.
"Obviously it's a unique situation," he said. "No matter where you go there is always going to be competition. I know Cooper Bateman fairly well. We were at the Elite 11 together. I haven't met Parker, but I have seen his highlights. He is a great athlete. It will be fun. I actually think I might room with Cooper."
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect passed for 2,300 yards with 28 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He completed 70-percent of his passing attempts.
"I feel like I have a good grasp on the game where I am at in my career," Del Rio said. "I feel I am pretty accurate. I have the ability to move in the pocket. I am not the fastest guy, but I can buy time when needed. I feel like I have a fairly strong arm. I am not Matthew Stafford though.
"I definitely want to improve on my long ball accuracy. You aren't going to complete 90-percent of your deep balls, but I do want to improve on my accuracy. You can always work on your footwork. I can tweak a few things with my throwing motion. I think the biggest thing is learning to throw accurately when under duress. Guys who can't throw under duress don't last long in the NFL."
His father, Jack Del Rio, is the current defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. He has also been the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He talked briefly about the Broncos' season and how his parents feel about this decision.
"They have won nine in a row now," he said. "They are on a roll. Hopefully they can make it deep in the playoffs. Once you get in the playoffs it's whoever is the hottest team. Ever since week 5 they have looked really good.
"They are happy for me. My dad and mom are very hands-on. They were going to help me, and give me advice. They weren't going to tell me where to go. They are extremely happy for me. They are going to support me through this and looking forward to what the future holds."