(Click here to watch video of his announcement)
All it took was a feeling.
For Zach Banner, the feeling of where he should play college football hit him a few days ago and finally sunk in before he fell asleep Sunday evening.
“It’s just that feeling,” the Lakes High offensive tackled said. “I can’t really describe it. I think all the other recruits that commit and sign, they understand what it’s like to commit and just get that feeling that, this is right.”
Banner’s feeling told him to give an oral commitment to USC and before an audience filled with family, friends, classmates, coaches, teachers and hundreds of others at Lakes High on Monday, he publically declared himself a Trojan, picking Troy over Washington and Oklahoma.
“I thought about it being a perfect opportunity to go to a great school. There’s a lot of good things that you can say about all these schools. This one just had the most opportunities.”
Banner can make the commitment permanent on Wednesday when recruits are allowed to sign letters of intent.
Banner, rated as the 16th-best prospect in the country by Rivals.com, said it was difficult to choose between the three programs and none was the wrong choice. Rather, USC was the best fit.
“This whole past week and a half,” he said, “I’ve been contemplating becoming a Sooner, a Husky or a Trojan.”
Had Banner picked Washington, he would have given a much-needed boost to the Huskies’ 2012 recruiting class. Washington has missed out on four of the top five in-state recruits with Mercer Island quarterback Jeff Lindquist the only four- or five-star player electing to sign with the Huskies.
Banner can become only the fourth in-state player more than two decades to sign a letter of intent with USC as a high school senior. O’Dea safety Taylor Mays committed in 2006, Mercer Island running back David Kirtman did in 2001 and offensive lineman Travis Claridge of Fort Vancouver signed in 1996.
Banner will leave for USC shortly after Lakes’ graduation. Trojans coaches have told him he can compete to play immediately.
“We’re going to get ready so I can start by September when we open up against Hawaii at home,” he said.
NCAA sanctions levied against USC two years ago didn’t factor into Banner’s decision. Scholarship deductions haven’t hindered the Trojans’ ability to recruit – USC is poised to bring in a top-10 recruiting class on Wednesday – and the one-year bowl ban has already been served.
With quarterback Matt Barkley, a potential Heisman Trophy winner, returning, Banner is optimistic about the 2012 season.
“We’re going to be making a run towards a national title next year,” he said.
Banner said he plans to play basketball for the Trojans, too. A center, he helped Lakes win the Class 3A boys basketball state championship last season. He said he has spoken with USC football coach Lane Kiffin and basketball coach Kevin O’Neill and both are supportive.
Banner’s father Ron said his son knows playing two sports in the Pac-12 won’t come as easy as it does in high school.
“He knows that football has got to be his priority,” said Ron, principal of Mann Middle School in Lakewood. “He will sacrifice the social life and other things in order to do that. As he gets out he’ll find out how much work it takes.
“If he can get some boards and throw some elbows on the hardwood, then let’s let him do that.”
Since returning from an official last week visit to USC Banner discussed his options with his parents and few others. Ultimately, said his mom Vanessa, the decision was Banner’s.
“At the end of the day it came down to where is my son going to be most comfortable?” she said. “I just wanted him to be somewhere he could enjoy the next four years and open this chapter in his life.”