Seemingly all of Utah and half of America is rooting for David Archuleta to be the next "American Idol." But one of the Murray teen's best friends wouldn't be completely heartbroken if he's not.
"I miss him a lot, so it's OK with me if he comes home," Jessica Judd said, with a laugh.
The signs of how big a deal this is are all over Murray High — literally. Not only is the school Archuleta attends plastered with posters, but they're selling "I voted for David Archuleta" T-shirts.
And the media have descended on the school to find out what the "Idol" favorite is really like.
(One friend, Mietra Aarabi — the girl who looked so uncomfortable on camera when "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest was teasing Archuleta about the upcoming Murray High prom — said she's signed an agreement with Fox that prevents her from giving interviews.)
"He's exactly the way he seems on TV. He's sort of shy," said one friend who asked that her name not be used. "But then everyone is surprised the first time they hear him sing."
Archuleta's friends use words like "sweet," "genuine" and "humble" repeatedly — something that comes across on TV but seems too good to be true to some viewers.
But those who know him best insist it's not.
"He's absolutely not faking it," said a girl who's known him since junior high. "That's the real David."
"He's really humble about it," said Judd, who considers Archuleta to be "like my brother." (They're schoolmates, neighbors and attended the same LDS Church ward.)
"He's a really, really sweet guy. I seriously do not know anybody who is as kind and as genuine as he is."
The humility is clearly not an act. Recently, Judd was talking to Archuleta about going to Los Angeles to visit him. "And he was, like, 'Oh, I don't know if I'm still going to be here then. If I'm still here, then that's fine."'
And that exactly mirrors the experience of former "Idol" finalist Carmen Rasmusen, who now writes a weekly column about the show for the Deseret News, when she chatted with Archuleta and asked if she could do so again the following week; Archuleta expressed doubt he'd survive that week's elimination.
That was two eliminations ago, by the way.
"It hasn't gone to his head at all and I really don't think it will," Judd said. "He's not that kind of person."
It seems there's no lack of teenagers who say they're friends with Archuleta.
"He is a pretty shy guy," said Murray High student body president Adam Ward, who knows Archuleta but isn't among those best-friend claimants. "But he was a fun kid. And everybody liked him."
"Everyone's claiming to be his best friend, but he really was friends with most of those people, honestly," Judd said.
Archuleta moved to Murray after he'd already won $100,000 on "Star Search" at the age of 12. Like most kids that age, it was a bit daunting to start a new school where he didn't know anyone.
As he became acclimated, he "kind of came out of his shell," a friend said.
"He didn't like to be the center of attention, though," Judd said. "At parties, he wasn't the one entertaining everybody. He was one of the people being entertained."
Archuleta didn't hide his remarkable singing voice. He performed in talent shows; teachers and fellow students would ask him to sing; he was a member of the school choir.
For his friends, it's a rather surreal experience to see the boy next door performing on the No. 1 TV show in America.
"It's kind of weird just to see one of the people you know so well on TV and seeing America freaking out when he walks on stage," Judd said. "But it's a lot of fun to watch. He just lights up the stage. It makes me so happy for him and so proud of him."
Even though it keeps him far from his friends back home.
"It makes me miss him a lot," Judd said. "Choir is kind of not as much fun without him. We went on choir tour and it just wasn't as much fun without David there."