You can blame -- or thank -- Emmitt Smith for at least some of the drama that has come to characterize the weeks leading up to national signing day, when recruits from across the country announce where they will play college ball.*
*This is subject to change, as you'll see below.
In 1987, Smith, then a star running back at Escambia (Pensacola, Fla.), arrived at a press conference to announce his college plans wearing red and white. This was significant, or so it seemed, given that Smith had recently made a recruiting visit to meet with Nebraska coach Tom Osborne. Judging by his attire, Smith seemed poised to announce that he would become a Cornhusker. Instead, he declared his allegiance to the Florida Gators.
On Wednesday, high school football players will make similar announcements at signing day ceremonies throughout the country before signing and faxing their national letters of intent. ESPNU will broadcast 18 signing day announcements, beginning with consensus No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche at 7:30 a.m.
If the 25 years since Emmitt Smith made his announcement are any indication, tomorrow should offer its fair share of bizarre moments. Here's a look back at some of the more interesting signing day-related stories and stunts.
USC Fires Coach, Loses Recruit
Dorsey (Los Angeles) standout Na'il Diggs was all set to sign with USC in 1996 when USC athletic director Mike Garrett fired Trojans basketball coach Charlie Parker. Why did that matter? Diggs' older sister, Roslyn, was dating Parker at the time. Diggs revoked his commitment and eventually signed with Ohio State.
Willie Williams' Troubles
Carol City (Miami) linebacker Willie Williams was the headliner of Miami's 2004 recruiting class, but his college career unraveled before it even began. After he committed to the Hurricanes, Williams, who kept a diary for the Miami Herald in which he documented the lavish treatment he received on recruiting visits, was accused of violating his probation on a 2002 burglary case. It came out that Williams had been arrested 10 times since 1999. Williams failed to crack the starting lineup as a freshman and transferred to a community college.
Jimmy Clausen's Hummer
During the spring before his senior year, Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) quarterback and future American Family Insurance ALL-USA Offensive Player of the Year Jimmy Clausen called a press conference at the College Football Hall of Fame to announce his commitment to Notre Dame. Clausen arrived to the press conference late and in a white stretch Hummer limo. “Hindsight is 20-20, but we wouldn’t do the Hummer again,” Clausen’s brother, Rick, told the Raleigh News and Observer in 2010. “We never anticipated that sort of backlash.”
Kevin Hart's Fake Commitment
Fernley (Nev.) lineman Kevin Hart committed to Cal over Oregon at a signing day ceremony in 2008. Less than 10 hours later, Rivals.com, which ranked Hart as a two-star recruit, reported that the Cal staff had "had no contact whatsoever" with Hart or his coach. A week later, Hart revealed that he made the entire story up. "I wanted to play D-I ball more than anything," Hart said in a statement. "When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality. I am sorry for disappointing and embarrassing my family, coaches, Fernley High School, the involved universities and reporters covering the story."
Kouandjio's Change of Heart
Three days after announcing that he would attend Auburn at a signing day press conference, DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio announced that he would be attending Alabama with a post on his Facebook page.
OMG OMG OMG, BULLDOG PUPPY!
Carver (Columbus, Ga.) running back Isaiah Crowell melted hearts when he held aloft a bulldog puppy in a red sweater after committing to Georgia in 2011. Crowell has since transferred to Alabama State.
Top safety recruit Landon Collins of Geismar (La.) Dutch committed to Alabama during the 2012 Under Armour High School Football All-America Game. Collins' mom was visibly upset with her son's decision and told a reporter, “I feel LSU is a better place for him to be." Awkward.
Davonte' Neal Stands Up Elementary School Kids
About 600 elementary school children were pulled out of class for Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral Davonte' Neal's college announcement last year. One problem: Neal didn't show. A few hours later, after the children had been dismissed, Neal arrived at the school and signed with Notre Dame.
Reuben Foster's Tattoo
This year's craziest signing day-related story has to be the strange recruiting journey of Auburn (Ala.) linebacker Reuben Foster. After originally committing to Alabama, Foster switched to Auburn and tattooed the Tigers' logo on his forearm to show how serious he was about his new commitment. But Foster decommitted from Auburn after Gene Chizik was fired and committed to Alabama on Monday night.
What sort of craziness is in store for tomorrow? We can't wait to find out.