The pen put an end to the drama.
Lutheran North coach Carl Reed spent Tuesday juggling a multitude of college coaches making their final pitches to land the trio of talented Crusaders slated to sign on Wednesday.
Offensive tackle Jack Buford, defensive end D'Vion Harris and running back Isaiah Azubuike all verbally committed before their senior seasons. That didn't stop from them being the focus of other programs as they aimed to stockpile their rosters.
“They had a lot of pressure on them throughout the whole year, especially committing early and schools trying to come in and flip their commitments,” Reed said. “That's the hardest thing.”
In the end, all three stayed true to pledges as Buford signed with Missouri, Harris with Minnesota and Azubuike with Arkansas State.
The stress and challenges that come with recruiting are now over and done with. No one is happier to put recruiting to bed than Buford.
“I'm ready to put this mug to sleep right now,” Buford said with a grin.
Buford didn't get a lot of attention to flip his commitment. The 6-foot-5 and 290-pound tackle is among the most vocal Mizzou supporters on social media. He's not shy about selling the Tigers and where he sees the program headed to anyone who'll listen.
“I think (other schools) knew,” Buford said. “Not a lot of guys when they commit are out recruiting like I am.”
Azubuike was recruited as a linebacker or safety by several Power 5 programs after he spent the majority of his high school career on the defensive side of the ball. But the 5-foot-10 and 195-pounder was focused on playing running back. He took over the primary running back role this season for the Crusaders and rushed for 1,237 yards and scored 20 touchdowns despite missing several games with an injury.
He'll share the backfield at Arkansas State with a familiar face. Donovan Marshall graduated from Lutheran North last year and signed at Arkansas State, too.
Harris said there were some schools coming hard for him but the more they pushed, the more he backed away. Harris said Minnesota was in on him early and, in the end, that mattered a great deal.
“It's pretty obvious to tell the real from the fake,” Harris said.
Reed understands his players are going to go through something similar every signing day for the foreseeable future. College recruiting is a cold game, and until the paperwork is signed nothing is official.