ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio -- Class of 2014 prospects won't sign letters of intent for another 19 months, and yet Michael Ferns is already down to a final three. It's not an early leaderboard, a top three or his three favorites. They are his three finalists.
So why is the St. Clairsville (Ohio) linebacker already cutting his list to simply Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State with so much time before he is forced to make a decision?
"The season is coming up and the main focus is the season and that's what matters most," the rising junior said. "I'm a Red Devil and I'll be a Red Devil the next two years and an alumni the rest of my life. Any decision I make, that hasn't happened yet. My focus is here. I'm around people I've been with a long time, and that's what I'm going to stick with until it's time to move on."
The 6-foot-3, 228-pound Ferns clearly is not interested in the added distractions. Since mid-winter, Ferns has juggled track and field, football workouts, individual workouts, summer basketball and recruiting visits. The visits already were a bit of an added bonus this summer; Ferns only took a few and only when it would not interfere with any of his other obligations.
His plate is only getting fuller, too. Ferns will return to the Red Devils basketball team after taking his sophomore year off. His head coach at St. Clairsville, Brett McLean, said Ferns will be in the running for valedictorian in 2014, and to top it off the imposing, hard-hitting linebacker is preparing to go pre-med when he gets to college.
"As soon as I got into high school science and math stuck out for me," Ferns said. "From a social aspect, I feel like I could make (football and pre-med) work. Every college at this level is going to have a great education. I'm focusing on going to school but also the opportunities I'll have after my four years and what it takes to finish up pre-med."
On a visit to Penn State, Ferns learned about former players who studied pre-medicine during their careers. Former linebacker Chris Colasanti, who graduated following the 2010 season, was a pre-med student while starting for the Nittany Lions as a senior.
"One of their players shadowed the athletic trainer for surgeries and everything," Ferns said. "There's opportunities at some schools that's going to be very useful."
The classroom is not the only place Ferns will be studying, though. Already physically gifted as his offers from the likes of his final three, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Wisconsin can attest to, Ferns will be locking himself in the film room as he gets ready for his junior season and tries to improve on an already spectacular sophomore campaign.
That is nothing new for him, though.
"Even as a younger player he studied film and opponents," McLean said. "I don't think most do that until they're seniors or in college. He's done it early as a freshman, so he was a little calmer as a sophomore. The game slows down a little. It gives him a head start to this year."
A varsity player since his freshman year on a team with several other Division I-caliber athletes, the extra time in the film room helped Ferns see things before they happen, which helped eliminate the "shock factor" he said he experienced his first season.
"You can pick up things, see the formation, or how the linemen line up, if the linemen are set back you can tell it's a pass," Ferns said.
So it's rather clear enjoying and soaking up all the recruiting process has to offer just doesn't have much space on Ferns' schedule. He has too many things to worry about to listen to 30 programs try sell him on committing.
He's a Red Devil, a potential valedictorian, going pre-med, and, when the time is right, he will be going to Michigan, Notre Dame or Penn State.