- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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Being mere hours away from officially becoming a Florida Gator for the 2014 season kept Lincoln High School defensive tackle Thomas Holley awake late Tuesday night.
"I was so excited I couldn't go to sleep," Holley said. "Now that it's over with it's a big monkey off my back and I feel good. I'm happy with my decision. Happy to head to college and do big things."
Holley, New York City's top football recruit, officially inked with the Gators on Wednesday. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound four-star recruit is ranked 51st in the nation by ESPN. He originally committed to Penn State, but switched after former Penn State coach Bill O'Brien left to become the head coach of the Texans.
"The opportunity was always there [at Florida] and I can play right away with the lack of linemen, and they always have a top 10 defense," Holley said. "Despite all the injuries last year they were still top 10 and still have a great coaching staff and great academics. Overall just greatness."
Holley had a litany of top schools chasing him, but his decision came down to Penn State and Florida. He originally went with the Nittany Lions, but their coaching change made him reconsider. He had always been comfortable with the Gators, and ultimately decided to decommit and play in the SEC. He is the fifth-highest rated recruit in Florida's 2014 recruiting class, according to ESPN.
"I knew if things didn't go well with Penn State that Florida was always there," Holley said. "I got on the phone with their coaches letting them know I was going to Penn State and they told me, 'Congrats and we're happy for you. We're still going to recruit you hard and save a scholarship for you.' If things went wrong with Penn State, it made it easy to make the switch. I loved it at Florida. Both spots I loved."
Florida is coming off a disastrous 4-8 season, and Holley believes he can help right away. He helped lead Lincoln to a Public Schools Athletic League title this past season.
"The sky's the limit for me," Holley said. "I see so much upside in myself and the coaches see so much upside in me, that once I put that work in and get going it's off to the races."
The Big Apple's only other top-300 recruit -- Erasmus Hall running back/wide receiver Curtis Samuel -- previously signed a financial aid agreement with Ohio State and has already started taking classes.
Samuel, ranked 153rd, enrolled early to get an opportunity to start taking classes and play right away, according to Erasmus Hall coach Danny Landberg. He added that Samuel liked the way Meyer utilized receiver Percy Harvin when he coached him at Florida. Samuel also had offers from other top programs such Florida and Miami, among others. The four-star recruit committed to the Buckeyes in August.
"He's always been a humongous fan of Urban Meyer," Landberg said. "He's very comfortable with the offense and the coaches and felt good enough to sign right away and get it over with."
Two other New York City recruits also signed with Notre Dame Wednesday: Poly Prep defensive tackle Jay Hayes and St. Joseph-By-The-Sea defensive tackle Peter Mokwuah. Both are unranked.