NORMAN — There's a Christmas tree box that sits in David Cornwell's Norman home.
The box is filled with letters from colleges, hoping to persuade the Norman North quarterback to play for them in college.
“It's just about filled,” Cornwell said. “It's crazy.”
A good deal of the letters came from Alabama.
A couple of weeks after Cornwell visited Crimson Tide rival Auburn last October, Alabama got serious.
On Cornwell's birthday, 72 letters arrived courtesy of the defending national champions.
“There were about six or seven handwritten ones in there,” Cornwell said. “When it was all said and done, I got about seven-and-a-half pounds of mail from them.”
The pitches worked.
The onslaught of letters convinced Cornwell to quickly schedule a trip to Tuscaloosa. After a few more visits, Cornwell committed to the Crimson Tide in June.
Over the past four-plus years, Cornwell has transformed from a high school freshman who had solid footwork but couldn't throw much of a spiral, according to one of his private quarterback coaches, into one of the most highly sought-after quarterbacks in the country in this class. He's also No. 2 on The Oklahoman's Super 30 list of the state's top recruits for the 2014 class.
A little more than four years ago, Cornwell ran into former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Joe Dickinson at a camp in Kansas City.
At the time, Cornwell wasn't sure whether he wanted to put in the work required to be a high-level quarterback.
But as he got deeper and deeper into workouts, the work went from something Cornwell felt obligated to do to something he relished.
There was a point, during the 2011-12 school year, when Cornwell didn't play high school football, that he went through 28 consecutive days of workouts.
“My feet were bleeding every night and my arm was killing me but that's where you really learn,” Cornwell said.
Even then, Dickinson thought he had something special on his hands.
“I used to tell people two years ago that David was going to be the most highly recruited guy that I'd worked with and a lot of people would just shake their heads and say they didn't see it,” Dickinson said. “But he just had the potential, once he put everything together, that he was going to be a dominant force. You just can't coach size. You can't coach 6-5.”
Just as important was the way Cornwell has handled the attention of first being a highly thought-of high school quarterback, then going through a high-profile fight for eligibility when he moved from Jones to Norman North after last season and then committing to the most high-profile program in the most high-profile conference in the country.
“The focus is up to here,” Cornwell said, raising his hand near the top of his head. “We've got to win a state title. To heck with Alabama right now. I've got to focus on this, getting better as a quarterback and helping this team.”
Still, though, it's hard not to look past this season.
Cornwell intends to enroll at Alabama in time for the spring semester and compete for playing time immediately.
“When it comes down to it, the best offenses in college football for prostyle are Stanford and Alabama,” Cornwell said. “So what if you hand the ball off, it's going to protect you, especially if you're playing young, to have a run game and the line.
“That was part of the decision. I want to go compete for the job. I don't want to redshirt or sit on the bench. Their line and their running game makes it a whole lot easier going up against those SEC defenses all the time.”
Dickson said the closest comparison to Cornwell among high school quarterbacks he's seen is Eli Manning.
Dickinson got a look at Manning at New Orleans' Isidore Newman High School when Dickinson coached at nearby Tulane.
“That's the body type he is,” Dickinson said. “He moves around really well. All the guys in the NFL that have gotten a look at him, look at him and say that's the NFL body type.
“He doesn't compare to anybody that I've worked with because he's so much bigger at this stage.”