SALEM — The recruitment process, of what most experts consider the state of Utah’s best football recruiting class in history, reached an appropriate crescendo just before noon on Tuesday, one day before National Letter of Intent Day.
Banners, a pep band, confetti and even the national anthem accompanied the commitment announcement of Salem Hills’ five-star athlete Porter Gustin inside his high school gym. Most media outlets were in attendance to gather footage and quotes of what could well be the most-heralded prep football recruit in state history.
Gustin's announcement followed other recent annoucements of the state's other top prospects, such as Brighton's Osa Masina, who opted for USC, Timpview's Gabe Reid, who chose Stanford, and East's Christian Folau, who elected Oregon State.
At the end of it all, Gustin chose USC over Ohio State, Arizona State, Utah and the first school to offer him, Dixie State.
“I feel like they’re going to go up from here,” Gustin said of his decision. “I love the coaching staff, and USC, it’s a great program traditionally, and I think it’s going to go back to that, so I don’t think I can go wrong with them.”
Resting on the Trojans didn't come until after much consideration by the 6-foot-5, 248-pound linebacker. Gustin had reached the stage where he was being courted by almost every top program nationally and certainly regionally.
“It was hard, but at the end of the day it was just a gut feeling,” Gustin said. “[USC] is where I felt most comfortable, so there, late at night, it just came to me. I just felt USC was the one.”
The late night turned into the early morning hours of around 2 a.m. Tuesday with Gustin yet to make up his mind. All the recruiting pitches had been made, and the family had discussed the options in earnest, but the final decision wasn't an easy one to come by.
With no one in the Gustin family able to sleep, John Gustin, Porter's father, sent his son a text.
"I mean, we had to get going on this thing since we had the announcement all set up," John Gustin said with a laugh. “What I said is, ‘Get on your knees and pray, at least do that for me. [Porter] says, ‘I already have.’ ”
John Gustin then got understandably emotional when relaying his final text message to his son: “Then follow your heart and the spirit will prompt you. You have a destiny to fulfill somewhere. The Lord will guide you, if you let him. Good luck tomorrow and we love you.”
For a parent, leaving such a big decision completely up to your son isn't always an easy thing to do. For John Gustin, however, he knew his son had prepared sufficiently to make the right one.
From an early age, Porter Gustin showed signs of rising to become a legitimate national, five-star prospect.
“It really showed me how dedicated he was at a very young age,” John Gustin said. “His focus on his body, so that he could compete at the top echelon of athletics, demonstrated to me that he had some special attributes. It’s the work ethic that sets him apart.”
Among Porter's attributes was abstaining from eating sugar while doing push-ups and sit-ups every night, no matter what. Through abstaining from such, he eventually reached the stage that was set for him Tuesday.
“You expect it because you’ve seen how hard he’s prepared himself for it,” John Gustin said. “He’s put the time in almost his entire life.”
At 3:15 a.m. Tuesday morning, and after all the months of heavy recruiting, Porter rested on a final decision.
“USC it is. Just figured it out. Keep it quiet and goodnight,” the text to his father said.
“It was hard, but at the end of the day it was just a gut feeling,” Porter Gustin said. “[USC] is where I felt most comfortable, so there, late at night, it just came to me. I just felt USC was the one.”
Later that morning, after grabbing at least some sleep, Porter began the worst part of recruiting, calling all the other schools, other than USC, to say, "Thanks, but no thanks."
“You feel that you just got several different families and now you have to tell someone that he’s not coming there," John Gustin said. "That’s the difficult part. The easy part is telling someone you’re coming, the hard part is telling more that you’re not.”
By choosing the Trojans, Porter Gustin will have the opportunity to play at either linebacker or defensive end, according to what alignment coaches present — an option that was attractive to him. Also attractive was the fact that USC was one of the first big-name programs, if not the first, to believe in his potential.
“Everything went crazy after the USC offer came in,” John Gustin said. “They were there before he was a star, I mean before a two, three or a five star. They made it clear … that they didn’t care if he was a two-star or a 20-star, to us [they said], you’re a five-star. I think that meant a lot to him.”