Jamelle Naff received the phone call that changed his life on break at Burger King.
He was working his part-time, fast-food job last summer when an assistant coach from TCU called. A call from a recruiter was nothing new for the Del City High offensive lineman, who was being pursued by several teams.
But this call was different — the coach offered a scholarship.
“I was surprised,” Naff said. “Shocked.”
“I've got a full-ride scholarship to, like, the No. 3 or 4 team in the nation,” Naff remembered thinking. “I was like, ‘Yeah.'”
Not so long ago, TCU was nowhere on Naff's radar. Same goes for most top-tier recruits in the country. Yet with Signing Day 2011 still looming large in our rearview mirror, there is evidence that the Horned Frogs are becoming bigger players on the recruiting trail. They didn't bust into anyone's top 25 recruiting rankings, but they did make inroads like never before, especially in Texas and Oklahoma.
For anyone who bleeds crimson or orange, that is a significant development. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State draw most of their players from those two states.
And the Sooners and the Cowboys each had a late recruiting tug-o-war with the Horned Frogs.
The Sooners had a commitment from Brandon Carter, a two-way player from suburban Fort Worth. They wanted him to play defensive back, but when the Horned Frogs dangled the idea of playing wide receiver, Carter ultimately bit.
He signed with TCU on Wednesday.
The Horned Frogs also made a late play for Cowboy commit Herschel Sims. The running back from Abilene, Texas, was the star of OSU's class, but when OSU running back coach Robert Gillespie left for West Virginia, Sims said that he was considering signing with TCU.
He signed with OSU on Wednesday.
TCU's emergence as a player on the recruiting scene is no surprise. Moving to the Big East opened eyes, then beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and finishing last season undefeated opened recruits' doors.
That was the case for Davion Pierson. The Millwood defensive tackle wasn't even thinking about the Horned Frogs until watching them blitz through this past season.
When they called and wanted him to take a visit, the 6-foot-2, 294-pound Pierson jumped at the chance.
“It was real nice down there,” he said. “When I went down there, the coach was real nice. The players, too.”
Pierson, one of three Oklahomans to pick TCU this year, would never have even given the Horned Frogs a second thought if not for their recent successes.
Now, he's fired up to be a Frog.
“I didn't really think I was going to D-I,” he said. “And I'm going to TCU.”
He smiled wide.
“I'm excited. Really excited.”
Naff knows exactly how Pierson feels. Even though he already had scholarship offers from Missouri, Hawaii and Colorado when TCU called that day at Burger King, a scholarship offer from the Horned Frogs was a defining moment for him.
“I knew ... I had the potential to play ball,” he said, “but after that, I felt like I was a really good player.”
The reason is simple but profound.
“It seemed to me that good players go there,” said the 6-foot-4, 311-pound offensive lineman who played in the Team USA vs. Team World game earlier this week in Austin. “They've got to. To have a team like that, you've got to have good players.
“I guess I'm one of those good players.”
If this recruiting class is any indication, TCU looks like it is getting more and more of those good players.