Almost immediately after he pledged to Maryland last July, Kingsley Opara was listed by several recruiting services as a "soft commitment." It was a label Opara -- for several months, at least -- found to be accurate.
"I knew I was going to have a big-time senior season," Opara said. "Other schools would come and be attractive to me. I kept the door open if a school I really liked came."
The two most attractive schools to Opara were N.C. State and North Carolina. The three-star prospect said he liked the Tar Heels, but not quite as much as the Wolfpack, so he decided against visiting Chapel Hill. An official trip to Raleigh was in the works, but a coaching change essentially ended those plans.
"I felt like taking the official to Maryland smoothed things over," said Opara, who plans to sign with the Terps next month. "I talked to the coaches and felt like I was really going to honor my commitment to Maryland. Maryland is the spot I can do things at [unlike] any other school. I recently shut the door and am sticking with Maryland."
Opara's final decision should provide relief to the many Maryland fans who follow the defensive lineman on Twitter (@future40million). For months, Terps fans on message boards and on Twitter speculated on whether or not Opara would end up in College Park.
"A lot of people were saying 'What's the deal with Kingsley? Is he committed or is he not committed?' A lot of mixed reactions," he said. "[Some people said], 'If you haven't committed, just go.' Other people were like, 'We really need you.' A mix of good and bad. I understand where they were coming from."
Maryland coach Randy Edsall and outside linebackers coach Lyndon Johnson never gave up in their pursuit of Opara. Now the Jacksonville, Fla., native hopes to reward their persistence with four big years with the Terps.
"Coach Johnson always felt I was going to come back to Maryland," Opara said. "When Edsall found out I wasn't going to visit N.C. State, he was excited about it. I'm really happy that I'm going to be a Terp. ... I can't wait to go to Maryland [and] just really change the recent history and help them win a championship – ACC, Big Ten and national championships. There are a lot of things we can do up at Maryland."
Here's an introduction to Opara:
Name: Kingsley Opara
Birthdate: Oct. 13, 1994
Birthplace: Quincy, Mass.
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Nickname: Big King and 40-Mill
Position: Defensive end
High School: Mandarin (Fla.) High
Senior statistics: 42 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 10 sacks
Rankings: Rivals.com – Three-star prospect. Scout.com – Three-star prospect, No. 91 defensive tackle. ESPN.com – Three-star prospect, No. 85 defensive tackle, No. 191 player in Florida, 74 rating. 247Sports.com – Three-star prospect, No. 56 defensive tackle, No. 137 player in Florida, 85 rating.
Bench max: 395
40-yard dash: 4.9
Runner-up school: North Carolina State, North Carolina, West Virginia
Other schools considered: Georgia Tech and Wake Forest
Favorite NFL player: Tom Brady and J.J. Watt
Favorite NFL team: New England Patriots
Favorite all-time Terp: Randy White
Favorite music: Future, Yo Gotti, Chief Keef
Favorite movie: The "Dark Knight" trilogy
Favorite TV show: "Criminal Minds"
Favorite food: Seafood
Favorite high school class: Forensics
Other high school sports: "I used to play basketball."
Hobbies: "Just chilling with my friends and family, having fun with them."
Intended major: Criminology or business
Something that not many people know about you: "Sometimes I get kind of sad. Everyone thinks I'm outgoing, but sometimes I get sad."
Best football moment: "My first moment was when we beat Atlantic Coast the first game my senior season. My second moment was when I sacked the quarterback for Flagler Palm Coast. I thwacked him and knocked him out and the ball came out. It was our first district game. It was big time."
Role model: "My role model is probably my dad because he's really hard working. He has five kids and he provides for us by working hard all day. Sometimes I don't always get to see him, but he's always working hard."
Why Maryland? "I just felt like [linebackers coach Lyndon] Johnson made me really feel comfortable immediately. He did a wonderful job recruiting me. He's another father figure. I felt like he wouldn't lie to me. And of course, [defensive coordinator Brian] Stewart has credibility. I like the way the defense was going this year. It was fun to watch. Other reasons are that Maryland was like the No. 22 party school in the country, it's got a good football team, Coach [Randy] Edsall is a great coach [and] it's a great school academically. It covers every base of what I'm looking for in picking a college. Playing as a freshman [is important, too]. Stefon Diggs and Wes Brown, seeing what they did and seeing that I could get in early and have an impact, that was another reason."