Gilman offensive lineman Stephen Spanellis said when the first Greyhounds in the Class of 2016 began to commit to college football programs last week, it was like a "domino effect."
Spanellis, a 6-foot-6, 315-pound tackle, announced Tuesday that he will play for Virginia. Teammate Wes Mehl, a 6-4, 270-pound guard, committed Sunday to Navy.
Their commitments bring to five the number of Gilman football players to announce their college choices. Cornerback Korey Stevens (Villanova) started it on June 24 and offensive tackle Devery Hamilton (Michigan) and defensive tackle Ellison Jordan (Penn State) followed within a couple of days.
"I knew going into this process that I'd probably want to commit before my senior year, because I wanted to be able to focus on that," Spanellis said. "Basically our whole class seems like it's just generally committing early and with a lot of prospects, it makes kind of a domino effect."
Gilman coach Biff Poggi said he has never had five players committed before July 1 headed into their senior years. He believes it has a lot to do with a recruiting process that wears on the players.
"I think what's happening — and I saw this with my own children — is recruiting is starting earlier and earlier and earlier, it is incredibly intense and I think the kids get really, really tired of the recruiting process," said Poggi, who has three sons who played Division I football. "The kids go around in the summer and take their visits early, I think they know where they're going to go and they are absolutely tired of the phone calls, the emails and the text messages and people asking for comments. I think this is only going to happen more often. I think early summer commitments are going to be the thing for the future."
Spanellis said that was certainly true for him. A three-star prospect rated the No. 36 offensive tackle in the country by the recruiting web site Rivals.com, he also had offers from Miami, Michigan, Maryland and Virginia Tech, among others.
"Ever since this past August when coaches have been able to contact me, it's been pretty hectic," said Spanellis, who received his first offer from Michigan State the winter of his sophomore year. "A lot of coaches have been trying to reach me. At Gilman, we really have a rigorous schedule and last year I was in four AP and honor classes, so I was really trying not to focus on [the calls] as much, because I was really trying to get some sleep at night."
Spanellis and Mehl — as well as their three teammates — said they were happy to complete the recruiting process so they can focus on having a great senior year with the Greyhounds.
Both good students — Spanellis has a 3.8 unweighted GPA and Mehl, 3.7 — they said academics weighed heavily in their decisions.
For Spanellis, it came down to Virginia or Princeton. Mehl's finalists were Navy, Air Force and a few Ivy League schools.
In addition to academics, Spanellis likes the proximity to home of the Charlottesville campus and he has seen the success that former Greyhounds Darius Jennings, who was signed by the Cleveland Browns in May, and Micah Kiser have had at Virginia.
Spanellis, a first-team All-Metro tackle recruited to play guard or tackle, said he's looking forward to being part of a program on the rise.
"Coach London is a really good coach and I definitely think they'll make a bowl next year," he said. "I think they're headed for bigger things. Once my recruiting class gets in there, I think it's a really good class."
For Mehl, going to the Naval Academy will fulfill a long-time dream and a family legacy of naval service.
"Navy was always the place that I wanted to go," Mehl said. "I have a long family history with serving in the Navy. My dad was in the Navy. Both of his parents were as well. They're very excited."
Mehl, who played center, guard and halfback at times last season, was recruited as a guard. He may be on a career path to becoming a helicopter pilot, although he said he's not sure.
"It was the combination of everything I was looking for," Mehl said of the Academy. "One of the things I love so much about Gilman's football program is getting to be part of something that's bigger than yourself, and that's something Navy offers as well. I like not just being part of a team but being part of a family and I think that's something both Gilman and Navy have in common."