- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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One of the fastest athletes in Florida is ready to bring his talents to the state of Texas.
Texas Tech signee Nigel Bethel II led Booker T. Washington to a state track championship last week, winning gold medals in the 100 (10.73 seconds) and 200 (21.22) and another for the 400-meter relay. Next up, he'll graduate and arrive in Lubbock at the start of June with the hopes of earning immediate playing time.
Our summer series of weekly Q&As with the Big 12's best incoming freshmen continues today with Bethel, the No. 226 recruit in the 2014 ESPN 300.
How did your family react when you decided to play your college ball in Texas?
Bethel: They were actually happy with the decision. At first they thought I was actually scared to go away for college. I took my visits and I just fell in love with the best fit for me.
How many times did you get to visit Lubbock?
Bethel: One time. When I actually went over and visited, I wasn’t really coming out there to give them a legitimate chance. I was just coming to use my visit. So when I went up there, I talked with the coaches and saw the cool environment and things like that, I wasn’t in a rush to get home. It felt good even though it wasn’t a big week, they played Texas State. I was like dang, when the environment gets big and they play bigger teams, I’m going to like it even more.
As a kid from Miami, what was your first impression when you arrived?
Bethel: When I got off the plane it was actually cold, it was September. They toured me around the campus, it was a big campus. And everybody loves football there. I had on my state championship ring and everybody walked up to me saying, ‘Whoa, where did you get that? Oh you play for Booker T.? Oh I know, you guys are the No. 1 team in the nation.’ That felt good.
Think folks where you're from know much about the Red Raiders?
Bethel: I think people down here know about Michael Crabtree, but I’ve always known Texas Tech as a team that upsets big opponents. West Virginia, Texas, they upset a lot of teams. That’s what I always liked. I never really imagined myself playing for them, but I’m glad for the opportunity. I guess people in Florida think it’s a small school or something.
Growing up, what did you consider your dream school?
Bethel: I actually thought I was going to end up at Florida State because that was my dream school, and then they offered me my sophomore year. That was my first scholarship offer, so I always thought I was going there. I thought I’d let the rest of the offers pile up and I’d go to Florida State.
But then that didn’t work out. They got a brand new coaching staff, Mark Stoops and James Coley had offered but they went to Kentucky and Miami, they split. The new DB coach came in and he said he liked me, but I’m not tall enough. The rest of the guys they’re recruiting were 5-11 or 6 foot. He said, “I thought you’d be bigger in person.”
So you ended up committing to Miami last summer. Why?
Bethel: With Miami, me and my coaches came to an agreement that was the best opportunity for me. But I was actually still thinking about Texas Tech, and my coach said, “They have a young coach, wait and see how the season plays out.”
Was it Tech's 7-0 start last season that started to change your mind?
Bethel: That caught my attention. I was already committed to Miami, but I wanted to see how everything plays out. They told me I was going to be the only cornerback in the class, and I was at first, and then after a while I saw the secondary and defense really wasn’t producing. I was like, man, I feel like I can go to a better conference like the Big 12 and play better competition each week. They’re going to throw the ball each and every week and I can showcase my talents.
Does that excite you, to play on an island in a league full of spread offenses?
Bethel: It means a lot to me. I’m a very competitive person, no matter what. If LeBron James called me out to play one-on-one, I’d come right to him and be like, “OK, you’ve got to beat me to say you better.”
You'll be just the second Florida native on this Texas Tech team. What does that mean to you?
Bethel: I’ve got a chance to bring some Miami swag. I think I’m the first person from Miami to actually go there. The closest dude they’d had, I think, was from like Fort Lauderdale. So I’m the first from Miami to go play at Texas Tech.
Tell me about your relationship with Kliff Kingsbury.
Bethel: Coach Kliff is a cool dude. He’s a young guy and he has the program up and coming. He has a nice personality and I see him and Coach (Kevin) Curtis as big brothers. They talk to me like a man, treat me like a man. They don’t have to sugar coat anything with me, they can always be real with me at all times. That’s what they’ve done from day one.
Finally, what are your expectations for your freshman season?
Bethel: I’m coming up there to work hard like I usually do. That’s how I earned my position in ninth grade as a freshman. I never played any sports until I got to high school. I just came with a great work ethic and it paid off. Great work ethic and being coachable, that’s the No. 1 thing.
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