TAMPA, Fla. - It was an exciting afternoon at Plant High School on Wednesday as two of the top prospects in Florida made their college intentions known during a ceremony at the school.
With the press conference being carried live on local television, Panther quarterback Phillip Ely and offensive tackle Tony Posada made public announcements to more than 100 people in attendance as well as a number of viewers in the Tampa Bay area.
Ely, a four-star prospect, had narrowed his choices to LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Clemson. In the end, the 6-foot-1, 186-pound passer shocked many teammates and fans when he ultimately chose his school.
"I am proud to announce that I will be attending college and playing football at the University of Alabama," Ely said excitedly.
Wearing a suit and black tie, the quarterback unbuttoned his jacket to reveal the signature Alabama "A" at the bottom of the tie, which had remained hidden to that point with the coat buttoned. A loud roar erupted among the crowd and then his family revealed their Crimson Tide shirts as well.
Plant head coach Robert Weiner had high praise for Ely and was excited about his decision.
"Phillip Ely has truly been one of the most incredible stories in the history of our school and our football program," Weiner said. "He is a great leader and always puts the team first. Though he has accomplished numerous feats, he has never once mentioned an individual goal to me or anybody else.
"Phillip is 19-0 as a varsity starter as we won state championships the past two seasons. He was also 6-0 as a starter on the JV team as a freshman. I think that shows that he is a winner and [Alabama] is getting a winner."
Ely, who many thought would be headed to LSU, says that the thought of playing in Tuscaloosa was just too much to pass up. It was an opportunity that only recently became a possibility.
"It was kind of a tricky process," he said. "I know it was surprising. A lot of guys didn't think I'd go to Alabama even though I had an offer from there. It just came about. They were always in my interest.
"LSU, Ole Miss, Wake Forest and Clemson (along with Alabama) were pretty much my top five. Alabama came about recently and I just had to take them into consideration."
Though the quarterback often receives the glory, Weiner was quick to point out that Posada was a key part of Ely's success. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman was part of a unit that has only allowed five sacks on Ely in two seasons.
"It all starts up front," Weiner said. "Without Tony giving time to Phillip, we wouldn't have done the things we've done the past two seasons. We knew he would be one of the best linemen ever in Hillsborough County and he has lived up to that billing."
The big three-star tackle held double-digit offers, including ones from the likes of Texas Tech, Tennessee, Kentucky and Duke. In the end, though, Posada's decision came down to two programs.
"It came down to USF and Michigan," he said. "I love Florida. I've always been a big fan but, when I went there I just didn't feel like a Gator."
In the end, Posada decided he wanted to play in the Big Ten. Wearing a suit and tie of his own, it was a little harder for the big man to hide any Wolverine neckwear. Though he was wearing a burgundy tie, he reached into his jacket and pulled out another one - one that was striped with maize and blue.
"I will be attending the University of Michigan," Posada said as the crowd cheered loudly as well.
In the end, Posada says his decision came down to distance from home. However, unlike many recruits, the campus that was further away was more appealing.
"I visited USF a couple of times and I went up to Michigan for about three days," he said. "I just loved the campus and the atmosphere was cool. What it came down to was being in Tampa for another four years or going to Ann Arbor for another four years. I wanted to explore and get out of Tampa so I decided to go to the University of Michigan."
Plant is set to host another announcement next Wednesday. At that time, five-star athlete James Wilder Jr. is planning to make his commitment. The country's No. 3 overall prospect is expected to choose between Florida, Florida State and Georgia.