As Jack Coan walked, wide-eyed, into The Big House, the junior quarterback from Sayville could only shake his head in wonderment.
"It's amazing. It takes your breath away when you first see it," Coan said of 107,501-seat Michigan Stadium, the first stop on a remarkable six-school, six-state, coast-to-coast summer college tour for the nationally recruited passing prodigy.
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"You walk in and it's like an antique. You're like, 'Wow!' A hundred and ten thousand fans. It must be a crazy place to play in," said the 6-3, 185-pound Coan, who last season, as a sophomore, set Long Island single-season records for passing yardage (3,431) and touchdown passes (40).
Michigan, in its first season under former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, is one of six schools that has already offered Coan, 16, a full scholarship. The others are Rutgers, Maryland, Syracuse, Miami and Stony Brook. Many more have expressed interest -- there are dozens of color brochures haphazardly arranged on a desk in a downstairs office off the kitchen of the Coan family home in Sayville.
That's why Coan and his father, Mike, piled up the frequent flier miles this summer and paid to attend football camps and check out the campuses at Michigan (June 20), Rutgers (June 24), Maryland (July 14), Wake Forest (July 17), Central Florida (July 24) and Stanford (July 31). (NCAA regulations do not permit official school visits for football recruits until a student's senior year of high school, even though quarterbacks often commit earlier than that.)
"I don't have a timetable. I know that each school that has offered me has offered other quarterbacks. If one of them commits to a school that offered me, that school is out," said Coan. "I'm not going to commit to a school if I'm not positive I want to go there. I'm just soaking up everything right now. I'm really enjoying the process. You only get recruited once; you might as well enjoy it."
So many universities; so little time.
"I felt like we were traveling every day. It was a really busy summer, but it was really cool," Coan said. "It was the chance of a lifetime to go on all these trips and meet all those coaches. It's every football kid's dream to be looked at by colleges and have to opportunity to play at a big-time college and further your education at a great school."
At Ann Arbor, Michigan, in addition to being awed at the setting, he was floored by Harbaugh's camp which was not, to Coan's surprise, all football all the time. Harbaugh likes recruits who are good all-around athletes. "We'd be playing football and then out of nowhere, we'd break out soccer balls and we'd start playing soccer," said Coan, who had also drawn national interest as a lacrosse player. "Then we'd be throwing the football, and out of nowhere, he'd break out mitts for everyone and we'd have to catch fly balls and grounders. And we'd be throwing to coach Harbaugh. He's having fun with us. It was great."
Sayville coach Rob Hoss, whose persistence in sending videos of Coan to major colleges paid off when Miami visited Sayville last spring and made a scholarship offer that put Coan on the radar of colleges across the country, was also blown away by the experience at The Big House.
"It's a very well-known entrance into a college stadium and when you're first walking in that tunnel, you can't really see how big the stadium is," said Hoss who accompanied the Coans to Ann Arbor, Piscataway, New Jersey (Rutgers) and Palo Alto, California (Stanford). "Then you walk out and you try to imagine, 'What does this sound like when they're playing Ohio State or Penn State? What does 110,000 people sound like?' It kind of brings the hair up on the back of your neck."
Coan said he also had "fantastic" summer experiences at Rutgers, Maryland, Wake Forest and Central Florida, and came away impressed with their coaches and facilities. His final visit, to Pac-12 power Stanford, may have left the biggest impression.
"Just a beautiful place, right when you get off the plane. A perfect 80 degrees. No humidity," Coan said. "You walk around the campus. You see palm trees. You don't see that in New York. Coach [David] Shaw and his staff were relaxed and down to earth, I really enjoyed meeting them and seeing their football program. It's a great program."
Equally important to Coan, an "A" student who ranks 12th in his class of 242, is that Stanford is also a great academic institution.
"You hear them say, 'It's four years for 40.' That's their motto. You go there for four years and for the next 40 years of your life, you're set, with the Stanford networking," Hoss said.
"It's the Pac-12. You're playing Oregon, UCLA, USC, but I know Jack wants to be challenged in the classroom as much as on the football field. Granted, other schools I've visited stressed academics, but Stanford was adamant about it, over the top, actually. This isn't lip-service. At Stanford, you are a student first and a Pac-12 football player second. The professors, who have season tickets to the games, profess this and the coaches affirm it."
That was music to a parent's ears. "It does turn your head. Michigan, Wake Forest, Stanford. They are great academically and I want something that will challenge Jack. He's a smart kid," Mike Coan said. "Stanford has been a dream of Jack's ever since he was little. Seeing him out there, and at those other schools, meeting all those coaches, it was a dream come true for me."
The dream is just beginning. "I can be flying out to Michigan or Stanford to watch my kid in front of huge crowds. Talk about a dream, something that doesn't happen in your lifetime," Hoss said.
"It's surreal. We're from Long Island -- not the mecca of football out here in Suffolk County -- and to have one of my kids be coveted by schools like that is pretty wild."
Hoss said he'll continue to be heavily involved with the family in Coan's recruitment as well as the final college decision, which Jack said might not come until his senior year.
"Schools that told me they don't recruit New York are doing it now because of Jack. He's a national kid," Hoss said. "If I thought this past year was busy, wait until December . With the offers he already has, it's a copycat business and there will be many more. It's going to be nightmare -- in a good way, but a nightmare."
A nightmare that will ultimately fulfill a dream. "I always thought that I belonged, but I never knew if it would happen," Coan said of getting the chance to play major college football.
"Coming from Long Island where there aren't that many Division I football players, I wondered. But then you go to these camps and you see these other kids who have been offered by other schools and you find out that you're just as good if not better. I'm not a cocky guy at all, but now I feel like I can play with anybody."