For high school athletes talented enough to have multiple scholarship offers, the decision of which college program to sign with can be the biggest of their young lives.
In addition to picking among universities, Baylor's Reggie Upshaw must choose between sports.
Upshaw has scholarship offers coming in almost daily in both basketball and football, and the Red Raiders senior said he hopes to make a decision before football season kicks off in mid-August.
"It will be tough having to choose one," said Upshaw, who has played organized basketball since he was 4 and football since he was 6. "But I can be comfortable walking away from one, knowing I'll get to play the other in college, which most people don't get to do.
"I was really surprised at the beginning of summer when I was getting invited to so many camps and then when some of the big-time offers came in. I feel very blessed to have so many options."
The 6-foot-7, 215-pound Upshaw is actually a three-sport letterman, having cleared 6 feet, 4 inches to win the TSSAA Division II state high jump championship last spring.
He averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead the basketball Red Raiders to the Division II-AA state semifinals. He has a basketball scholarship offer from Middle Tennessee State and also is being recruited by Tulane, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Western Kentucky, Belmont and Lipscomb.
Upshaw also led Baylor's football team with 403 receiving yards and six touchdowns, including a fourth-quarter TD to beat Christian Brothers in the state semifinals. He dropped only one pass all season. He has football scholarship offers from Vanderbilt, MTSU and Lousiana-LaFayette and is being recruited by Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State and Wake Forest.
"It's very rare in my history to have a kid with the kind of offers he does in both sports," Baylor basketball coach Austin Clark said. "The biggest difference you see is that in basketball, at 6-7, there's quite a few talented players that size. That's why he's getting more interest from mid-majors in basketball, whereas 6-7 in football is unusual.
"He's very unique. One of the neat things about him is he blows that myth that you have to specialize. He's an athlete year-round. He picked up a lot of toughness from football and brought that to his basketball game. He could play at a high level in either sport he chooses."
Upshaw's football recruiting stock began to rise when he took a break from his summer AAU basketball travel schedule to attend football scouting combines at Vandy and MTSU, where he was timed at 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Once recruiters saw that type speed, combined with his large frame and overall athletic ability, interest from the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conference programs took off.
"Most of the coaches from the bigger schools that call about him are recruiting him as a tight end," Baylor football coach Phil Massey said. "He's got such good size already and is really athletic and agile for a kid his size, so he's got all the tools. He's versatile in that he has great hands and doesn't mind being physical, which makes him a really good blocker.
"It's very rare to have a kid getting the attention in both sports at the level he's getting. He's one of the most rare athletes I've ever coached anywhere."
The state's most highly recruited prospect is another dual-sport star. Ensworth's Corn Elder was last year's D-II Mr. Football award winner and the state basketball tournament MVP, helping the Tigers win consecutive state titles in both sports each of the last two years. The 5-11, 170-pound running back and defensive back has football offers from Tennessee, Ohio State, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Cincinnati. He also has basketball offers from MTSU, Tennessee State and Jacksonville.
His size and inconsistent outside shooting have limited Elder's basketball offers, but his combination of speed, quickness and competitiveness is driving the football recruiters.
Another local athlete also could be facing a similar two-sport decision. But while Howard's 6-8, 290-pound Brandon Walters isn't lacking in size, he is still a bit of an unknown after missing most of last football season with a broken hand and not attending any summer camps. But the potential is there, and both Howard football coach Michael Calloway and Hustlin' Tigers basketball coach Walter McGary agree Walters will get offers in both sports.
"When he sets his mind to it, he's the best lineman in the whole area," Calloway said. "It's a matter of motivating him sometimes, but he has a pass block that's unreal. You can't get past him. He gets out of his stance quick and has good feet from playing basketball. It's all natural ability and he's only going to get better with coaching once he decides if football is his future."
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...