While thinking about his own recruitment experience, Tyrel Stokes let out a nervous laugh.
As college scouts from all over the country tried to woo multi-star Harker Heights teammates Darius James and Naashon Hughes for the better part of the last year, the Knights’ underrated free safety prospect bid his time — albeit very anxiously.
“I was just anxious for my turn to get a little recognition,” Stokes said.
All that patience paid off Sunday when the 6-foot, 175-pound Stokes verbally committed to Stephen F. Austin during an official visit this weekend.
“They said I have a chance to start as a true freshman,” Stokes said.
“It was real cool up there, and the coaches were people that you’d like to be around.”
Stokes, a second-team Class 5A all-state selection who was also considering Sam Houston State, Houston Baptist and Central Arkansas, ultimately felt there was no more time to waste in the decision process, especially with National Signing Day just around the corner.
Sitting inside the office of Lumberjacks head football coach J.C. Harper earlier Sunday, Stokes said he felt a little pressure to make a decision on the spot.
“I made the commitment earlier than I wanted to, but I feel good about the decision because I didn’t want them pulling my scholarship (offer) if I didn’t commit,” Stokes said.
Offered over the phone a month ago while participating in the Daily Herald’s All-Area football team photo shoot, Stokes made an official visit to the Nacogdoches campus this weekend, meeting and getting to know players and coaches. He also visited Houston Baptist and had planned to visit Central Arkansas.
As a senior at Heights, Stokes racked up a team-high 140 tackles (falling just four shy of the single-season school record), including a team-leading 87 solo tackles, 21 for loss, 28 assists (11 more than the next-closest teammate), four sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Stokes also broke the Knights’ career tackles record with 252 and twice finished with a school-record 20 tackles in a game last season.
“It is almost like Superman changing in the booth once he hit the field,” Knights head coach Mike Mullins said. “He understands the game, he’s a very physical player, and he’s one of those guys you see out of uniform walking around the halls, and then all of a sudden he’s all about business.”
At SFA, Stokes will see a familiar face in former Killeen defensive end standout Artrez Price, who redshirted this season after signing with the Lumberjacks last February.
Stokes himself is excited to finally put pen to paper on National Signing Day Feb. 6, even if the entire recruiting experience didn’t go down like he’d hoped.
“I’m pretty excited to end high school and get to college,” Stokes said.