As one of the more intriguing prospects of the 2022 recruiting cycle, Austin Westlake star quarterback Cade Klubnik has a difficult decision ahead of him. One that, as he told SI-All American's John Garcia in a recent interview, he has been preparing for his entire life.
"I've wanted to do this my whole life," he said. "I've always played quarterback and my ultimate goal is to play college football one day."
Following a 52-34 state championship win over fellow 2022 quarterback prospect Quinn Ewers and the South Lake Carroll Dragons (the second-straight championship for the Chaparrals), Klubnik's stock has begun to soar, and he has now emerged as one of the most pursued quarterback prospects in the cycle.
How good was he? Well, as a junior, Klubnik completed 67% of his passes for 3,495 yards and 35 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He also ran for 583 yards and 15 scores, giving him 50 total touchdowns for the year. He was named MVP in the state championship win over Southlake Carroll, going 18-of-20 220 yards and a touchdown while rushing for an additional 97 yards and two touchdowns.
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Klubnik has become such a hot commodity in fact, that some of the best programs from around the country, including the Georgia Bulldogs, the Texas Longhorns, the Clemson Tigers, and the Florida Gators, have all been knocking down the door in hopes of gaining his consideration.
Like many others in his cycle, however, the Coronavirus pandemic has made the recruiting process a substantial challenge but has also provided him with a lot to be thankful for.
"I'm still learning every day," Klubnik told SI All-American. "Obviously it's been a pretty big challenge with not being able to meet coaches in person and to visit as many campuses as I want. This is an experience I've always dreamed of. It's insane, it's fun and been so crazy. It's a wild experience with COVID-19. A lot of Zoom calls..."
So what is Klubnik looking for in a potential suitor?
It's a more complicated answer than one might expect. Where some recruits would simply focus on the best school for academics or on the top program for NFL development, Klubnik's approach is more nuanced.
And thanks to the caliber of schools that are pursuing him, Klubnik's list of criteria is well warranted.
"There are five main points that I really look into in a school, I did it in the beginning and I really stick to it," he said. "Evaluating each school at every level, in each category. See how I can fit in there when talking to coaches, to the few schools that I've gotten to visit, and also just that gut feeling to see if this is the place I want to be.
While Klubnik has yet to name a top group of schools, he was able to give Garcia his thoughts on some of the top programs that are still in pursuit of his talents, and how they could factor into his decision.
Texas: "Still learning a lot about their whole staff and all of that. I still feel like it's pretty new, but I'm liking them. I like their offense a ton. They take shots down the field, a lot like our offense here."
Clemson: "I like them a lot. I've built a really good relationship with them since June or July, probably. I don't have an offer from there, yet, but I like their culture a lot. Their school, obviously their offense and they've got a great football program."
Florida: "I like Florida's OC a lot, and Coach (Dan) Mullen, they've got a really good group there. I'm liking their offense and I like the few times I've talked to them."
North Carolina: "I think they've got a good future ahead. They've been successful the past two years and are a program on the come-up. I like Coach (Mack) Brown a lot, I think he's a really good guy."
Penn State: "Coach (Mike) Yurich, their OC, was at Texas when they offered me. So when he went to Penn State he re-offered me at Penn State. I like him, he's a really good guy."
According to Klubnik, a decision on his future could come by the end of the summer, or even sooner. But as of right now he is enjoying the process -- a process that will continue as he sets out to earn the Chaparrals a third consecutive 6A state championship.
"I got to prove myself this year, it was a really cool experience that I'll never forget," Klubnik said. "Recruiting has just kind of happened; it kind of came with it."