Monday night's college announcement party for Greg Gooch, hosted by the Albright family in Longwood, was exactly what this recruiting stuff should be all about.
The Albright house was filled with love and support for the big fella, but more important, there was suspense. It was Gooch's mom's birthday and his school of choice was set up as a surprise for Dwan Tolbert.
“I think I did a pretty good job of keeping it a secret,” said Gooch, a Lyman linebacker.
Indeed he did. He picked his school last week, but then changed his mind and so most of those close to him had no idea what his destination would be.
Somebody purchased the wrong school jewelry for mom's birthday present.
Somebody printed up the wrong shirts and ordered the wrong color of hats.
Others purchased their own hats in anticipation. Nope, wrong again.
A last-minute scramble got the planned party favors of shirts and hats on track, and Gooch eventually unveiled his choice of Indiana to the gathering of friends and family.
Gooch, admittedly never one for the limelight or much for conversation about himself, had kept a lot of his recruiting process quiet. He didn't talk much about his visits, never boasted a favorite and just went about his business.
I asked him before his announcement Monday if he had anything planned for how he was going to unveil his choice, and of course there was nothing elaborate; no speech, no hat game, no tricks. Just an announcement.
“I want to wish my mom a happy birthday because I'm going to Indiana University,” and he pulled out a white T-shirt with Hoosiers printed on the front and GOOCH printed on the back. Everyone at the party received a GOOCH shirt and the party favors were a hit.
So his actual announcement “ceremony” took all of 37 seconds and it was over. His oldest sibling, sister Alesia Tolbert, spoke briefly just after he announced his decision and her speech lasted longer.
Even when the recruiting process started out slow for Gooch, he was patient. He may have been antsy about a lack of offers in the beginning, but he went about his work. He was a picture of consistency for Lyman coach Jeff Gierke all season.
When teammate Nico Firios, his mate in the middle of the Lyman defense who, with Gooch, made up one of the best linebacking duos in the state, started getting more offers, Gooch didn't let that bother him. He was happy for Firios. He even wished more offers were bestowed on his friend and teammate.
Gooch is one of the good guys. He's shy, humble and a bit embarrassed by the spotlight.
Don't, of course, try telling that to any Central Florida running backs or quarterbacks who have collided with him on the field. He's a ferocious hitter who mauls the opposition. And when Greg Gooch hits someone, you even feel it on the sideline. He's big for a linebacker at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds and he's very athletic. He moves well and lowers the boom.
He is a big-time get for Indiana, a program that has suffered through numerous years as the doormat of the Big Ten Conference. He knows the players in this class are being looked upon as the building blocks for the future of Hoosiers football, and he's ready.
He wasn't even headed to Bloomington, Ind., before this past Thursday night. One more visit from Hoosiers co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Williams Inge sealed the deal.
“It was real tough. I was going back and forth. We were doing research to see what fit best for me and I actually ended up flip-flopping,” Gooch said. “I wanted to go to Iowa State, but Indiana came through and I had a connection and I felt real comfortable with the coaches.
“Emotions got in the way and … they just brought it all. They got down to the point where they were saying, ‘We need you and we can do a great job this year with you coming in.' … not just for redshirting, but coming in and actually playing.”
He slept on it, prayed on it and decided on Indiana. He's comfortable, relieved and ready to celebrate.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun