The patience finally paid off for Austin Herink.
The Cleveland High School quarterback recently committed to the University of Memphis, a Football Bowl Subdivision program that plays in the American Athletic Conference. Last season, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder threw for 3,411 yards and 35 touchdowns and helped the Blue Raiders to 10 wins and the Class 5A state semifinals.
He completed 65 percent of his passes for 5,709 yards and 55 touchdowns in his two full seasons as the starting quarterback at Cleveland -- both school records. He becomes the third consecutive Cleveland quarterback to sign with a FBS program, following Tucker Tipton, who played at Air Force, and Chad Voytik, who just completed his redshirt freshman year at Pittsburgh.
"We've had a lot of successful quarterbacks over the years," Herink said. "Cleveland is bigger than most people think -- it's not some small town as it's perceived to be. We're going to have a good quarterback next year, but don't think it's just Cleveland. It starts with playing catch with Dad in the yard."
Herink said Memphis was the one school that he could tell "really wanted him" throughout his long, tumultuous recruting process, which actually picked up some after he ran a 4.75 40-yard dash at a camp at Memphis last summer. Initial interest came from Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi State, Duke and Cincinnati, and he had early offers from Eastern Kentucky, Virginia Military Institute, Youngstown State and UT-Martin, which had asked him to grayshirt.
At one point, Herink was leaning toward the UT-Martin offer, with the idea of attending Cleveland State Community College and helping the Cleveland football team as a volunteer assistant for a semester before enrolling at Martin in January. His recruitment picked up again recently, though, and he made a trip to the Memphis campus during spring break.
He was pretty sold then but took some time and, after taking a weekend trip to Middle Tennessee State and making sure he had no second thoughts, called Memphis quarterbacks coach Brad Cornelson to relay his commitment.
"It's definitely a relief to go to bed at night knowing where I'm going to school next year," Herink said. "It takes the uncertainty out of it, and I can start focusing on my future -- doing their workout plan and learning the playbook.
"Memphis wants me to come out there and compete. I definitely think I'm a good fit. I had some opportunities at the I-AA [Football Championship Subdivision] level, but I knew what would make me happy with no regrets was a I-A program. I can compete and see if I'm as good as I think I am, but if I had never tried it out, I think I would have regretted it.
"Plus I can prove to all those programs who passed me over that I can play."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.