When Gilman's Shane Cockerille and Calvert Hall's Delando Johnson sign their national letters of intent to accept football scholarships Wednesday morning, they won't be at school. They'll be 1,300 miles away in Austin, Texas.
Instead of signing beside their high school teammates, the rivals will join some of the nation's other top high school seniors who are also playing in Tuesday night's fourth annual International Bowl. Cockerille, headed to Maryland, and Johnson, headed for Toledo, plan to sign at the 2013 National Signing Day Breakfast in Austin on the first day of the signing period for football, soccer and several other sports.
While they look forward to sealing their college futures — each will be the first in his family to attend college — the All-Metro players took different routes to signing day.
Cockerille, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound quarterback who can run (1,305 yards last fall) and pass (1,106 yards), always wanted to be a Terp. He looked at a few other options, but always came to the same realization and committed to Maryland nearly a year ago.
An Elite 11 selection who led No. 1 Gilman to its second straight Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship last fall, Cockerille should fit well into Maryland coach Randy Edsall's offensive style.
"He runs a read option-type spread offense," Cockerille said, "so they give the quarterback the option a lot of times with the ball in his hands. It fits me. At Gilman we were running the ball a lot, but I can also throw with the Elite 11 stuff, so that offense fits my style of running and throwing."
Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound safety who had 80 tackles and four interceptions last fall for the No. 2 Cardinals, took his time considering a handful of options and committed to Toledo in late December.
His dream school, Ohio State, was in the picture for a while, but when a five-star safety from Georgia committed to the Buckeyes, Johnson said, that dropped him out of their recruiting picture.
"That's OK, though. I'm good," Johnson said. "Toledo is the place for me. Everybody has their opportunity and this is mine. They were the only school that stayed with me since my sophomore year. They loved me. I'm their type of guy."
Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said knowing there's someone in front of you on the recruiting depth chart and not being sure whether there will be a spot for you can be discouraging, but Johnson handled it well.
"You may have four or five of those [Football Bowl Subdivision] schools in the hunt for the same kid, but they're all recruiting another kid so they don't get caught with nothing if the guy they love ends up choosing one of their competitiors," Davis said. "For Delando, it was about him knowing what's going on and doing what's best for himself and his family. That part of the process can be difficult. It can be discouraging for a young kid, but he kept his cool during the whole thing."
Johnson said he has never second-guessed himself. Neither has Cockerille.
That can be difficult, because a lot of FBS coaches will keep recruiting players after they've made oral commitments. Several tried to lure Cockerille away from Maryland.
"It's gotten out of control, really," Gilman coach Biff Poggi said. "The schools are relentless in their pursuit of kids and do not think because you make an early commitment you're going to stop being recruited. I think they may recruit you harder. I think it's hard, because the coaches work hard to get you on their campus and when you go on one of these visits, it's an impressive production. Kids can be swayed quite easily. The thing as a coach and as a parent to remember is you went through a process and you made your decision for the right reason. It's probably a good idea to stick with it."
Cockerille and Johnson, who have been rivals for the past two years, enjoy being teammates for a change as they prepare for Tuesday's International Bowl kickoff at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex. The game will be televised live on the CBS Sports Network at 9 p.m.
The United States Under-19 team faces a group of international all-stars made up predominantly of players from Canada, but also from Japan, Austria, Australia, Mexico, Brazil, Sweden, American Samoa and others.
Both players have been in Austin for a week of activities leading up to the game, but they can't wait to put on their USA jerseys and get on the field.
"I'm looking forward to playing against the world team," Cockerille said. "I'm interested to see their style. From what I hear, they always have pretty good size. To represent your country is really an honor."
Cockerille said he received a text message from former Greyhounds lineman Brian Gaia, who played in last year's game, telling him that he would have a great time.
Johnson said he's already having a good time, even enjoying the two-a-day practices.
"Nobody from Calvert Hall has ever done anything like this," Johnson said. "To get a chance to represent my country and to represent Calvert Hall, this is a great opportunity."
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