There were certainly chances to play on a bigger stage, programs with more tradition or more recent success.
Then again, thinking about Miami carries a certain magic as well. Perhaps moreso at 3:30 in the morning. And Bryce Singleton decided that he needed to stop trying to talk himself out of Florida International.
Hilton Head Island’s dynamic playmaker ended the mystery Wednesday when he signed a letter-of-intent with the Golden Panthers, turning aside late offers from Illinois and USF to commit to the place that left him with a “spark” during his official visit.
“It just felt like a second home,” Singleton said after making things official. “And I don’t say that often — you only have one home. But it was just a great feeling to be there. And being there the next four years is going to be a great thing for me.”
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He becomes part of FIU’s first recruiting class under new coach Butch Davis, who rebuilt the University of Miami into a national-title roster after NCAA sanctions hit them in the late 1990s. After spending the past few years as a TV analyst, he takes over a program that went 4-8 last season.
Saying yes to the Golden Panthers, of course, meant saying no to some other coaches with strong credentials. Such as Illinois coach Lovie Smith, who took the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl a decade ago. And USF’s Charlie Strong, who landed in Tampa after his dismissal from Texas.
Both of those opportunities came in the past two weeks — Illinois as recently as Tuesday.
“So many things were coming so fast and furious at the end,” said Seahawks coach B.J. Payne. “There were a lot of great opportunities for him, but I think he really believes they’re going in the right direction. I think he fell in love with Miami. Who doesn’t?”
Singleton scored 24 touchdowns this past season, including a six-TD performance in November against Colleton County. The versatile speedster tallied 10 touchdown catches, 11 more on the ground and three more via returns.
The Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette’s Offensive Player of the Year also had offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Marshall, Charlotte and Ohio University.
“Something sparked as soon as I got on campus,” Singleton said of his visit to FIU. “You can ask my dad. We were in the locker room — you dress up in their uniform and they take your picture — and I was like, ‘I’m coming here.’ And we’d just been there two hours.”
Singleton’s father, Tim, acknowledged as much.
“Illinois is great, South Florida is even better,” said the elder Singleton, who coached the Seahawks for eight years before Payne’s arrival. “But man, there was something about Florida International for him. That was the only place where he lit up.”
Payne said: “I knew it was going to take something pretty monumental to get him to sway.”
Even so, there were those late offers to consider. Singleton had planned on visiting USF last weekend, but late complications forced that trip to be scrubbed. Then came Illinois, with an offer and invitation to visit campus this coming weekend.
It didn’t get sorted out until the wee hours of Wednesday, when Singleton and his dad sat down for a conversation after returning from the Seahawks’ basketball game.
“I love FIU, no doubt. It’s just with other schools coming in late, it messes with a lot,” Singleton said. “Why didn’t they come last year; why didn’t they come last month? Anything but 24 hours before signing day. It was a lot to think about.”
Tim Singleton said the final decision didn’t come until about 3:30 a.m. After four hours of sleep, Bryce Singleton was even more solid in his choice.
“I literally called my dad in my bed — where’s the paper?” he said. “It was that simple.”
- Bryce Singleton (football):
- Tyler Hamilton (football): Purdue (already enrolled)
- Harvey King (football): Savannah St.
- P.J. Franklin (football): Limestone
- Jose Gaytan (football): Limestone
- Pugg Robinson (football): Limestone
- Carmen Mlodzinski (baseball): South Carolina
- Lexi Lainhart (soccer): South Carolina
- Dalton Shaw (baseball): Anderson