Denver (Pa.) Cocalico Offensive Tackle Ryan Brubaker quickly became one of the most sought-after prospects in the nation once his junior tape made its rounds. The 6'6", 285-pounds prospect was diligent in the recruiting process leading up to the month of June, and he has already utilized four official visits this month, with one more on tap. The Keystone State standout discusses all of this and more with VR2 on Sports Illustrated
"It has been surreal," Brubaker said of the opportunity to get to campuses finally. "I don't know how to really describe it. You are doing all of these zooms, but the reality does not sink in that all these opportunities are real, and then you get on campus, and it is like, whoa, I could commit on the spot. That just never came through on Zoom because it was like doing another meeting for school or work. So walking around campuses allowed me to see it was a very real opportunity I could take advantage of."
While new offers rolled in seemingly every day during the recruiting dead period, Brubaker and his family were persistent in navigating the recruiting process virtually, which helped prepare him for the fast-paced month of June he has encountered.
"First of all, Zoom was helpful because it allowed us to weed out schools I simply was not interested in, or there was just something about it where I wasn't too sure," he said. "It provided an opportunity for the schools I was visiting, to where my parents and I agreed these were the schools that earned it through their efforts in recruiting. In a second sense, it was awesome because it was not like meeting these people for the first time. All of these visits that I have been on so far have been smooth like we are old friends because we have been in each other's living room through zoom. Meeting someone and shaking their hand is different, and I am appreciative we are able to do that, but it wasn't as big of a jump as I thought it would be. I already felt like I knew all of the coaches we met. It was like, okay, you are coach so-and-so, the Twitter profile photo looked a little different, but we are on track now."
After months of virtual communication with Tennessee, Brubaker was finally able to meet the Vols staff in person during his fourth official visit of the month.
"It went well," Brubaker said of the visit. "Knoxville is a new place. Quite honestly, so are Stanford and Columbia. The setting is very neat. It is very similar to home with the rolling mountains, rivers, and creeks, and all of that stuff."
"The visit went good," he added. "The coaches, as a new staff, are dedicated to the players in the building, and they aren't necessarily looking to bring in the biggest or the baddest from somewhere else in the SEC or Power Five. For both of those programs, that speaks volumes. But it went well. We enjoyed our time with the coaches. My parents enjoyed talking with them at the parent social they do in the evenings. I had a great time, it was a brand new experience, and there were a lot of good things going on."
His longstanding relationship with Glen Elarbee is a crucial reason why the Vols have remained a player in his recruitment. "Again, a blessing with this month is it has been with no surprises, and that was very much true for this visit," Brubaker said "He met us at the airport when we landed and hats off to him because I think it was 10:15 or 10:30 before we landed, then he took us back to the hotel with one of his assistants. There were no surprises there. He was who he was when we talked on the phone, and he was very soft-spoken, very mellow. It was nice when we got into the football side of it because there was an intensity there that I had rarely seen. We did a zoom a while back and watched film, and I had seen it then. His conversation demeanor and coaching demeanor were different."
"The players spoke very highly of him as someone who is not going to blow his lid just to blow his lid. He is very precise and calculated in reprimanding and coaching and just being there in general."Having already used four official visits, including stops at Stanford, Penn State, and South Carlina, Brubaker's final official visit will go to Vanderbilt, then he will likely head towards decision mode.
"Quite honestly, after going to Vandy, I am going to take a week to digest that, then the wheels are going to start turning on that process of elimination, as much as I hate it," he said. "I am a relationship person, and I have built strong relationships at each school. Making those four bad phone calls is going to be tough. Even though they understand, and it is their job, I feel like I am letting them down by not coming to them. It is going to be tough. I have team camp the second weekend in July, and I don't know if I want to let it drag on that long. I think pretty soon it is going to be time to put all my eggs into my high school team's basket. It is going to be the first of July."
So what will it come down to for the coveted prospect? It is fairly simple. "For me, it is simply going to boil down to a gut feeling, which is why the visits are so important for me," Brubaker said of what his decision will come down to. "We talked as a family, and I listed out what my top ten categories are from most important to least important. For me, most important was just a gut feeling. If I get to a school and there is that pang, and I can see myself going to school here and going to class here and being happy 365 days a year, that is kind of where I am at."
"Wherever I end up, they are going to get someone that is dedicated," he said of what one of these schools will get in him. "I have said to my parents and several other people, 'whenever I commit, I might as well sign my national letter of intent because there is going to be no de-committing or any of that stuff. I am not going to play that game, just out of respect for coaches. They will get someone who is committed and passionate about where they are. I want to make sure I choose for the right reasons. If I can't wake up every day and say, ' I am darn happy,' then I chose for the wrong reasons. I think as a result of that passion for wherever I choose, that school is going to get a hard worker. I love what I love doing, and football is one of those things that I love. If I am doing something that I love at a place that I love, then the results are going to be good."