In the world of players wanting to go to the powerhouse BCS programs, Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange safety Lucas Thompson has chosen to take the road less traveled.
The 6-foot, 185-pound four-star prospect chose East Carolina over Miami and South Carolina, and announced his decision Thursday night at the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. Other offers included South Florida, Louisville, Rutgers, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ole Miss and Illinois.
For Thompson the final decision came down to a comfort level between him and the East Carolina coaching staff.
"From that first meeting with Coach [Lincoln] Riley to my visit there, I always felt a sense of family and togetherness," Thompson said. "We ate together, we laughed together, we talked about things that are really important.
"With me leaving my family and friends it's important to be in a place where they don't have to worry about me, and ECU is that place."
The No. 139 overall player in the ESPNU 150, nationally ranked No. 6 at his position, admitted to being a lifelong Miami fan and said it was a tough decision to go against the Hurricanes.
"I love Miami, I like a lot of the guys in their class, like Angelo [Jean-Louis] and Duke [Johnson]," Thompson added. "I liked South Carolina, too; they came on real strong.
"But I need to make my own decision and do what is right for me."
This is East Carolina's second time striking it big with an Orlando-area prospect. Several years ago the Pirates took a flier on Orlando Olympia running back Chris Johnson, who became a first-round NFL draft choice.
Thompson said Johnson's experience at East Carolina was a factor.
"These days you can go to any school and succeed," Thompson said. "If the coaches are right and the player is happy, he's going to play hard. I will play hard and succeed."
It has been a long road for the player who competed at last season's Under Armour Combine with just three offers and little exposure. Since then Thompson has been to The Opening and was named an Under Armour All-American in the fall.
"It's been the greatest experience of my life," Thompson said. "I never thought I'd be an All-American and considered one of the best in the nation.
"I just wanted to have the opportunity to play football in college. I didn't expect any of this. It's the greatest blessing and I just want to make people proud for believing in me."
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.