Isaac Taylor-Stuart, the fourth-best cornerback recruit in the class of 2018 and the 32nd-ranked prospect overall according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, committed to USC on National Signing Day. Taylor-Stuart is from the San Diego area and attends Reggie Bush's alma mater (Helix High School), so you'd be forgiving for thinking this is a rather unsurprising development.
You'd be wrong, though.
A deep dive into Taylor-Stuart’s social media history reveals a particular opinion that could well have proven pivotal: He thinks Whataburger is better than In-N-Out. Like, eight >’s better:
Allow me to explain why this matters. Taylor-Stuart picked USC over Tennessee, Alabama and Texas A&M. USC, which presumably held a geographical advantage over the SEC schools still in the running, is smack dab in the middle of In-N-Out country. There are multiple Los Angeles area In-N-Out locations within half-an-hour’s drive of USC’s campus. There are also Five Guys and Shake Shacks nearby. But there are no Whataburgers in the state of California, and this makes Taylor-Stuart sad.
The state of Alabama has 14 Whataburger locations, but currently the closest one to the University of Alabama campus is 55 miles away in Pelham. That’s changing in two months, though, as the chain has announced plans for a new restaurant in Tuscaloosa. Taylor-Stuart knew this, and he was publicly excited about it.
And what do you know! With Taylor-Stuart’s commitment on the horizon, a brand spankin’ new Whataburger opened in College Station, just 10 minutes away from Texas A&M's campus.
Let’s connect the dots here. Taylor-Stuart loves Whataburger. Texas A&M has a Whatabuger. Alabama is getting a Whataburger. USC does not have a Whataburger. Things weren't looking good for USC. (Or for Tennessee, which is just under four hours away from the nearest one in Birmingham.) Making matters worse, Taylor-Stuart drew attention to California’s lack of Whataburger as recently as last week (the tweet has since been deleted) and jumped back into the debate on the first day of February. Hamburgers were clearly on his mind as he prepares to make one of the most important decisions of his life.
In the end, hamburgers did not decide Taylor-Stuart's football future. But for a while there, it looked like they might.