Riley Nicholson is faced with a big-time decision.
He's 17 years old and he, like all college football recruits, is about the make the biggest choice of his young life.
It's a choice that will determine the path to the rest of his life.
It's probably an unfair burden to place on the shoulders of a high school kid.
That's the price you pay for being one of the best linebackers in state of Florida.
The Kissimmee Osceola High standout will be deciding this week where he will attend college.
It's down to three schools: UCF, NC State and West Virginia, although the latter is not nearly as much in the hunt as the first two.
Nicholson, a 6-foot, 220-pound backer who is ranked No. 11 in the Sentinel's 2015 Central Florida Super60 and No. 62 in the Sentinel's 2015 Florida Top 100, has seen the recruiting process from all angles.
His mom used to drive him all over the Southeast each summer to attend college camps in order to help get him attention from recruiters.
His play on the field, however, is what finally started to spark interest that has resulted in 20 scholarship offers from NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision institutions.
He has gone from wondering why he wasn't getting recruited to basking in the glow of daily attention from coaches all over the Southeast to being overwhelmed by the sales pitches and the overall aggressive nature of those trying to sell him on their respective programs.
Now he's the No. 1 recruit, coaches tell him.
He's the player who will take their recruiting class to the next level, they say.
They also say the same thing to the other linebackers they are recruiting. That's how it works.
He hears so many positive things about himself that he's starting to wonder if it's even true.
It's kind of like shopping for a new car.
You want the car, you want to believe all the great things the salesman says about it, but after hearing so much of exactly what you want to hear, it eventually becomes difficult to believe.
It's been frustrating. He used to talk about his college recruiting all the time.
Now he doesn't want to talk about it at all. He's cut off his mother from discussing it. That subject is off limits for the time being.
That's how bothersome it's become.
“I've tried to learn to let all of things other people say about where I should go or this and that not bother me,” he said.
UCF will likely sign four linebackers to its 2015 recruiting class.
UCF offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe and defensive coordinator Tyson Summers are laying it on thick from the Knights' perspective.
Interestingly, former UCF assistant coach Dave Huxtable is the one throwing counterpunches for NC State.
The Knights have been aggressive, even giving deadlines to recruits to make decisions. NC State has been laid back in its approach with Nicholson and it might be paying dividends.
UCF gave Nicholson a deadline last month. The Knights gave a similar deadline to Seffner Armwood linebacker Jordan Griffin. The Knights would like to have both.
They've even told both players they are the No. 1 linebackers on their list. The players talk to each other. They swap recruiting stories. Both know the situation.
Nicholson appears to be leaning toward NC State after UCF seemed to have swung his commitment last month. Griffin appears to be leaning toward Wisconsin after a recent campus visit to Madison. UCF appears to be on the verge of losing both of them. Appearances can be deceiving, however.
“I feel less pressure, but I'm not sure how to feel about everything and sometimes I really don't know what to believe,” Nicholson said.
He spoke last month about how playing for a winning program would likely be a big part of his selection process. That has changed. If it were that simple, UCF would already have a new linebacker, given its recent success.
Simple, however, is not how this works.
“Yeah, winning is good, but I've thought about it and how UCF could come out and lose a bunch of games this year just because Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson were such a big part of what they did and they're gone,” he said. “Look at Florida, they went 4-8 or whatever they were last year, so they have gone from winning a lot of games to losing, so it can happen to anyone.
“So I guess that really doesn't matter as much as I thought.”
As decision day looms, Nicholson just wants it to end. He's ready to be done with it. It gets tiring and bothersome. He's just looking for the perfect comfort level with whichever school he chooses.
“A big thing for me is that I just want honesty, to compete for a starting position and to go to a place where I can win and play against good competition,” he said. “I think I have that from both schools. Now it's just a matter of trying to figure out if I want to stay in Orlando and try to be like the hometown hero or go somewhere else and make my name.”
Most of all, he wants to be sure. He does not want to decide and then question himself. He thinks he'll be sure by the end of this week.
UCF would be quite fortunate if he stayed home. This kid is a gamer. A four-year player who could be a foundation of a strong linebacker unit.
The Knights need players to stay home, to pick UCF and make a statement so others continue to follow. It would be a huge boost for UCF to land a top talent from the Orlando area. It could set the tone for the future of UCF's local recruiting.
Or it could be just another one that got away.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, and on Instagram at os_recruiting.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun