The Ursuline High senior is pleased with his decision to become a Buckeye.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Louis Irizarry is going to Ohio State so he can eventually do what he's been dreaming about since he was little.
Oh, and he's also going to play football.
The Ursuline High senior, who verbally committed to Ohio State on Friday, will major in engineering beginning in 2003.
He's widely considered the best tight end prospect in the state, if not the country. He's also one of the smartest -- carrying a 3.9 grade point average.
"It was my childhood dream to be an engineer," Irizarry said. "I think I just love the creative part of it."
Originally, Irizarry was going to wait until after the high school football season to choose a college. But after two months of research and visits to Columbus (three times), Penn State, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, he decided he'd seen enough.
"I just woke up and said I'm not going to waste time anymore," he said. "Ohio State was the first place I visited and I kind of compared everyone else to them. All the other schools were pretty close to the same grade as Ohio State, but they weren't as close to home. So on the spur of the moment, I decided to get it over with and call Coach [Jim] Tressel."
The decision surprised everyone -- including his parents.
"It's great for us because we've basically never missed any of his games," his father, Louis Irizarry Sr., said. "You always need the support of your family, especially in college. And I know that as a parent, I feel good leaving my son with Coach Tressel. I know he's going to be OK."
Unlike his predecessor, John Cooper, Tressel has shown he can keep Ohio's top prospects in the state.
That's not the only difference between the two.
"Coach Tressel told me he was talking with Eddie George the other day and [George] said he feels the team is becoming a team again," Irizarry said. "That's what I want. I want to be on a team that works together, not a bunch of stars who don't care about each other."
Irizarry (6-5, 235) runs a 4.6 40-yard dash and benches more than 300 pounds. He's ranked as the third best prospect in the state by Ohio Football Recruiting News. Tom Lemming's Pro Football Report ranks him as one of the seven best tight ends in the country.
Tressel's lone tight end recruit from last season, R.J. Coleman, is more of a blocker. Irizarry is a better receiver, which could help him get some playing time as a freshman.
Not that he's looking too far ahead. The Irish have a lot of talent returning this fall and could make another run at the Division IV state title.
"We've got a lot of team goals, like winning the Steel Valley and winning state," he said.
And his early commitment just serves as extra motivation.
"I feel like I'm working for two schools," he said. "Every time I slack at Ursuline, it's like I'm slacking at Ohio State.
"I don't think I'll ever slack again."