By Brian Paglia
Recruiting websites called it Avery Walls' "Great Lake States tour", a June voyage through Evanston, Ill., Lansing, Mich., and Ann Arbor, Mich., to see Northwestern, Michigan State and Michigan with his mother, Yvonne Sebastian. In April, Walls and his mom spent five days on the West Coast to visit Stanford, California, UCLA and Southern Cal. Walls has attended camps at Oklahoma, Texas and LSU among others.
None counted as one of the five official visits the NCAA limits recruits to take, but they were almost as extensive: Academic tours, campus tours and meetings with academic supervisors, strength and conditioning staff, position coaches and head coaches.
Walls, a rising senior at Union Grove, has treated the recruitment process with the thoroughness of a research project. As the trend of early commitments continues, Walls has preferred to be deliberate, to make sure he finds "a place where I can feel welcome and I can call my second home," he said.
The 5-foot-11, 184-pound safety began to gain notoriety the summer after he transferred from Sandy Creek. He attended a camp at Oklahoma and left with his first scholarship offer.
Over the course of Walls' junior season at Union Grove and the subsequent summer, he was surprised by the torrent of offers he received. Stanford was the next to offer. The total climbed to 31.
So Walls and his mother decided to trek across the country to gain as much information as possible.
"You get to go out and see other schools and see other environments," Walls said. "Not many other people in the world get the opportunity that I'm receiving, so I just want to make the most of it. Some schools I might not ever go to again in my life, so I think it's a good experience now."
According to Scout.com Southeastern Recruiting Analyst Chad Simmons, more and more of today's recruits grow up with a dream school, receive that offer and the decision to commit becomes clear-cut and swift.
Walls was born in Columbus, Ohio. He grew up a fervent Ohio State fan. But the Buckeyes have not extended him an offer.
Which leaves Walls wide open with his options.
"He's evaluating each school from top to bottom," Simmons said. "He's going to go anywhere across the country, so he's really taking a look at this from a relationship standpoint with the coaches and the academic side.
"So many kids nowadays grow up with that favorite school, get that offer and then it's kind of a no-brainer for them. Avery is totally open to every school to find the perfect fit for his future, and that's what he's worried about."
Walls' criteria starts with a reputable academic program with ample academic support and ends with strong relationships with the defensive coordinator, head coach, position coach and strength and conditioning coach.
"Each school has different things to show people," Walls said. "We try to treat each visit the same."
As Walls prolongs the commitment process, so does the intrigue and the calls from reporters and recruiting experts who want to know what's the next move from the No. 63 prospect in the country, according to ESPN-U.
But that hasn't dampered Walls' recruiting experience.
"It's enjoyable," Walls said. "A lot of other people get sick of calls and stuff like that. I'm just enjoying it.
"I think it got hectic for like two weeks with calls and everything. But once I started telling them I needed to do homework, it kind of settled down. It hasn't been hectic."
School work has been Walls' focus since returning from his "Great Lake States tour." Enrolled in summer school, Walls is on track to graduate in December. His intention is to enroll in college early, in January, and participate in spring practice.
And his commitment plans are just as calculated. Walls whittled his choices down from 31 to 11 last week. Soon he plans to narrow his choice down to the five schools he'll make official visits to. Walls told a Scout.com he plans to commit "at the beginning of my season, probably by the fifth game."
"I think he has the right gameplan," Simmons said.