The word of a 17-year-old is all football programs like Michigan State have until recruits sign their name on the dotted line in February.Â So, in a way, every verbal commitment is a so-called soft verbal â€” meaning there are no technical ramifications should a recruit change his mind and decide to play elsewhere after verbally pledging to a program.
But with Detroit Southeastern's William Gholston, who committed to MSU last week, the chances of a de-commitment lie somewhere between not a chance and never going to happen.Â One big reason is because Gholston says he has truly found the school for him.
"I feel like I'm at home every time I go to the campus," Gholston told Spartan Nation in his own home.Â But despite his pledge to the Green & White, other programs will surely come a-knocking.Â And with speculation last week after his commitment that Gholston's verbal was soft (his high school coach was quoted as saying as much), fans might have a creeping sense of doubt about Gholston's final destination being East Lansing.Â They shouldn't; Gholston's commitment would likely rank near a 10 were it found on the Mohs scale of hardness.
"It's over, but I donâ€™t really feel like it's kind of over as far as schools still approaching me," Gholston said. Â "But I just have to keep my head straight and go with the green."
Such a sentiment meshes nicely with the ethos head coach Mark Dantonio has established at MSU.Â As a Spartan, integrity is a vital character trait, and it's expected even before a young man is officially at MSU.Â Dantonio insists the student-athletes who come play for his program are completely committed.Â His recruiting style emphasizes deliberate consideration on the part of players like Gholston, and he tells these young men that unless they are fully committed to becoming Spartans, hold your verbal.Â Dantonio's recruiting philosophy doesn't have much room for prospects who back away from their word, and with his insistence on providing recruits the time and space to make up their own minds, de-commitments have become a rare phenomenon at MSU.
Decked in a Spartan baseball cap and Michigan State tee shirt, Gholston reiterated his pledge to State in a forceful and convincing way, dispelling any doubt that the young man will be donning Green & White through his early adulthood.
"I don't want to be the kind of guy that says I am going to do this and then not," Gholston explained.Â "If I de-committed â€” which I'm not, just hypothetically â€” if I de-committed and went to another school, I would expect the coach would be â€¦ I would expect him to think, 'what kind of personality does he have â€¦ how can you trust his integrity, like what kind of character is he if he de-commits because he can't stay true to his word'."
Football itself has helped shape Gholston's attitude about character, integrity and perseverance.
"Football is basically a whole new life, because you have to go through the same trials and tribulations as you do in regular life," he said.Â "The physical, take that out and keep the same mindset as football in regular life, then I think I can â€” you have an easy base to let it flow through and then nothing really distracts you unless you let it."
The young man's attitude is pitch perfect.Â He names hustle as his strongest attribute, then answers in the following way when asked what he needs to improve on: "Everything.Â When I look at my film, it's not like â€” I mean, it's all right, but I think I can do 100 percent better if I work a little harder making a couple more plays."
If his own ethical standard is the biggest factor in stating his commitment is rock solid, the experiences he has had with the MSU coaching staff is a close second on the list of reasons why Gholston will be a Spartan come fall of 2010.
"They seem like they're real," Gholston says of the MSU coaches, comparing the camaraderie he feels with them to the family atmosphere he has at Southeastern.Â "They're not going to tell me one thing and then do another."
And like the coaches he committed to, Big Will doesnâ€™t appear to be a young man who will say one thing and do another, either.