Weber picks OSU, 'a better fit,' not UM

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Mike Weber rushed for 2,265 yards and 29 TD as a senior at Cass Tech.

Detroit — There are events for which you shouldn't be late, especially when you're the guest of honor.

But at least Mike Weber had a good excuse for his tardiness at the PSL signing-day ceremony.

Weber, Detroit Cass Tech's star running back, still was the phone with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh as late as 10 a.m. Wednesday, sitting in his car while Harbaugh was making one last pitch to get the prized recruit to flip back.

But in the end, it didn't work. This time, Weber stuck with his commitment, choosing to play for Ohio State, and in the process putting an end to weeks of inner conflict and constant pressure from family, friends and coaches.

"I did my pros and cons, and Michigan has a lot of pros and Ohio State has a lot of cons," Weber said after finally revealing his final choice at the Horatio Williams Foundation building. "Harbaugh's a really good coach, but I'm not really sure. I wasn't really sure because I haven't seen it yet, I don't know how long it would take for Michigan to get back on top. But I know Ohio State.

"They proved they can do it."

Weber's final decision was among the most highly anticipated in the country on National Signing Day, and particularly at the PSL gala, where a crowd of people offered polite applause while this player chose Michigan State and that player just Western Michigan, all while occasionally peeking toward the back of the room to see if Weber had arrived yet.

Much to the glee of all the live TV feeds, he finally did stroll in, just before 11 a.m., but was waiting for his parents before he made his announcement.

Mom and Dad arrived a few minutes later — Dad rushing over after a morning of plowing snow — allowing Weber to let everyone in on the secret.

Weber was originally a Michigan commitment, but backed out before Brady Hoke was fired in December; a short time later, he pledged his allegiance to Ohio State. But when he arrived Wednesday, he was wearing no red tie — no tie at all — nor was there an Ohio State hat in sight, seemingly lending some credence to unconfirmed reports earlier Wednesday that Michigan was getting him back.

There even was a Michigan logo on the back wall, with no signature yet — and only Weber left to announce. But when it came time to sign his name next to his new school's logo, Weber strolled slowly past the big block M and stopped, instead, in front of the OSU poster.

He said no to his hometown school, and that ate Weber up. On a day of celebration, he rarely smiled Wednesday, not during interviews, not during pictures.

"Either way, somebody's gonna be hurt," said Weber's father, Mike Weber Sr. "A situation like this, he's so humble and his heart is so big. He has a great heart. The toughest thing about the whole situation for him, he had to finally be selfish.

"I couldn't imagine at that age having to make that type of decision."

Said Weber, the son, who's had everyone in his ear —- and in his text messages — the last several months: "It's been a lot of pressure, but you gotta do what's best for you. And there you go."

Weber said he got good advice and counsel from the parents, but the parents said they left the decision completely up to him. Even Mike Weber Sr. said he didn't know the final decision until he got the phone call while on his plow route.

Same with Weber's high school coach, Thomas Wilcher, who wants it made clear there was nothing "for show" about Wednesday.

Weber gave Michigan, the team he grew up rooting for, serious consideration, right to the end.

"Michael gave them a real hard look," Wilcher said. "Jim Harbaugh and his staff did a great job of recruiting. They got off the plane running and they really made an impact on the young man."

A couple key factors emerged in the final decision for Weber, 17, the top-ranked player on The Detroit News Blue Chip list.

For starters, as he mentioned, Ohio State is coming off a national championship and poised to make another run, while Michigan is starting over under Harbaugh.

Then there's his Cass Tech teammate, defensive lineman Josh Alabi, who is going to Ohio State after dismissing overtures from Miami (Fla.). They'll be roommates.

"It's a bonus," said Alabi, who'd been talking to Weber daily, but also didn't know his pal's final decision until Wednesday morning. "I trust him."

Michigan also added a surprise recruit Wednesday, running back Karan Higdon, who spurned Iowa — and could be seen as potentially taking touches away from Weber.

That said, Weber is the more highly touted guy, at four stars to Higdon's three — and Harbaugh, in his discussions with Weber, made it clear he could be the premier piece of the offense and, perhaps, in Michigan's return to national prominence.

"He was just telling me you can be the guy at Michigan, your hometown, put a print on it, be the guy that helps change things around," Weber said of Harbaugh. "It's something I really considered, and was thinking about."

For the record, Weber also said he's not afraid of competition.

And that's a good thing. Because Ohio State already has a superior backfield, too, led by Ezekiel Elliott. But Weber said he's not worried about that — plus, he said Elliott told him he'll be leaving after the 2015 season anyway.

That scenario, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound Weber said, will allow him to make a name for himself in Columbus as a freshman, and then be the go-to guy for Urban Meyer as a sophomore and junior. Weber said he hopes to be in the NFL after his junior year.

More than a dozen other PSL football players announced their signings Wednesday, including King linebacker Tyriq Thompson and lineman Kyonta Stallworth to Michigan State.

Former Cass Tech quarterback Jayru Campbell, who's battled a number of legal issues, also was in attendance to see his friends, and said he's working to get his life together and finish high school.

But the biggest story, by far, was Weber, who finished his senior year with 2,268 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns. Wednesday was his time to celebrate — or, more accurately, exhale. Well, for now anyway. The story line will spike back up late in the fall, Nov. 28, when Ohio State visits Michigan in what could be a night game.

"Suiting up, going down to the Big House is going to be hard for me," said Weber, who confirmed his Ohio State paperwork is signed. "I know a lot of people are gonna be on my side, and a lot of people are gonna be against me. But that comes with it.

"I'm just happy it's over with."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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