VIDEO: Kareem Walker staying involved in Rashan Gary's Michigan recruitment
ORLANDO — Kareem Walker had what every college coach, fan and player wanted.
The nation’s No. 1 running back had a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Orlando on Monday for the Under Armour All-America Game. On that same flight was his best friend, Rashan Gary, who just so happens to be the nation’s consensus No. 1 recruit.
And Michigan’s top target.
Walker, who committed to Michigan earlier in the month, had several hours alone with Gary to make his pitch before he was surrounded by the masses in Florida. He could talk about the New Jersey movement, how Jim Harbaugh was turning Michigan into one of the national powers, or even about the food in Ann Arbor, which Gary said is an important element in his recruitment process.
The opportunity was sitting there at the Newark Airport. Unfortunately, so was Walker’s phone, which was left attached to the charge station after they took off.
“I was really kind of mad that I left my phone,” Walker said. “So I really wasn’t talking.”
An opportunity missed, it was.
But Michigan fans need not worry. Walker has already done plenty to pitch the five-star defensive tackle on the Wolverines.
“I try to keep it in his mind that he needs to come to Michigan, that it’d be a good look for me,” Walker said. “I want to be able to play together. But I’m not going to mislead him in the wrong direction that he don’t want to be led in.
“I try to keep it in his mind, but I’m not like ‘Don’t go to Florida State. Don’t go to Alabama or don’t go to Ole Miss.’ I just let him know that Michigan is best for him and that he needs to come play ball with me.”
Gary hasn’t named a top three. He hasn’t set up his signing day announcement, nor has he booked his last official visit.
The Paramus Catholic (NJ) superstar took his Michigan visit first back in September. Since then, he went to Auburn, Ole Miss and he has a visit to USC lined up. As the nation’s top recruit, he’s had no shortage of people in his ear.
But his best friend has remained steady throughout the process.
“That’s my boy,” Gary said of Walker. “He was like basically, ‘Go wherever you want to go.’ He’s really not forcing me at all. He just wants me to pick the best school for me.”
Feeling comfortable, Gary said, is also is major factor in his recruitment. Including Walker, Michigan already has four New Jersey recruits in its second-ranked 2016 class. Add that to the six New Jersey players that are currently on the Wolverine roster.
Gary has relationships with fellow New Jersey natives Jabrill Peppers and Juwann Bushell-Beatty, who also went to Paramus Catholic.
“If I go there, there’d be guys I could lean to,” Gary said. “It’s a family environment.”
The New Jersey connection helps, but Gary added that it wouldn’t be the determining factor in his recruitment.
“I see it, but at the end of the day, I have to be selfish,” Gary said. “I’ve got to think about myself and my family.”
Gary will have plenty to think about in the coming weeks before National Signing Day on February 3.
But before he does that, he has another trip planned. He was hoping to make an unofficial visit to Ann Arbor to see Walker and fellow Michigan commit Devin Bush, both of whom are early enrollees. They’ll play host to Gary, which Walker said would be a whole different experience than just practicing with him in Orlando.
Originally, Gary’s proposal was just a nice idea. Walker’s tune changed a bit after he committed.
“When he mentioned it to me, I was like, ‘Alright, come,’” Walker said. “Now I’m like, ‘You need to come.’”
Michigan fans can only hope Walker doesn’t lose his phone again.