Looming large in his family church Sunday on Broadway, Arik Armstead was the man of the hour, and moved by the magnitude of the moment.
He admitted to being half-humbled, half-nervous and 100 percent proud.
With a throng of family, friends and media in front of him and hats of possible college choices within reach, the Pleasant Grove High School All-America defensive end chose Oregon as his scholarship football destination.
The announcement resulted in an eruption of cheers. No, Ducks fans had not bolted down Interstate 5 from Eugene to attend the announcement at The House Christian Church, but the applause was more in support and relief for the teenager who also has emerged as the Sacramento region's all-time most sought-after football recruit.
The last time there was this sort of intense, eleventh-hour recruitment with home visits from some of the nation's top programs and national media attention was 1982. Cordova tailback Kevin Willhite, the National Player of the Year, chose Oregon over scores of others.
The 6-foot-8, 290-pound Armstead selected the Ducks, a national power in recent seasons, over Cal, Washington, UCLA, USC, Notre Dame and Auburn. Each program sent head coaches for visits to the Armsteads' Elk Grove home in recent weeks, right up until Thursday night.
The decisive visit was with Ducks coach Chip Kelly, who told Armstead he could promise him a chance to compete for a top-tier program, but he couldn't guarantee he'd be coaching Oregon the entire time Armstead would be in Eugene. Kelly nearly accepted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coaching job last week and will surely remain a hot commodity if the Ducks continue to achieve.
"I just liked how honest he was, and he really sold Oregon on me," Armstead said. "Oregon coaches never talked bad about any other program. So many do that negative recruiting. Oregon recruited me without really recruiting me."
Armstead will formally sign Wednesday on national letter-of-intent day.
Armstead was all set for a Cal scholarship tour earlier this month unless something wildly unpredictable happened. Something did. Tosh Lupoi, regarded as one of the nation's top recruiters, left Cal to coach the defensive line at Washington on Jan. 16. While wearing Cal colors, Lupoi visited Armstead the night before.
But Lupoi wasn't able to get Armstead to flip his choice, even with seven Washington coaches later staging a PowerPoint presentation at a nearby hotel.
Armstead said he appreciated the efforts of all the colleges who expressed interest. He spoke about each one during Sunday's announcement. He said he also will play basketball for the Ducks and will enroll in March, just in time for spring football drills.
"I think I'll really fit well at Oregon, and it's a great place. They also have the best marketing program, and I don't make it in the NFL or NBA or both I can fall back on that," Armstead said to cheers and an ovation at his church.
Armstead's football coaches have long raved about his character and dedication to his sport and studies, how he played all but the first quarter of this season's opener with a strained rotator cuff, how he played different line positions to help his team, and his general good-guy nature.
"Phenomenal kid and player," Pleasant Grove coach Joe Cattolico said. "I think he handled the pressure of all this really well."
Armstead gave a verbal commitment to play for USC following his sophomore season, the same school in which older brother Armond excelled on the defensive line. Armstead reopened his recruiting with official trips to Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, UCLA and Oregon. The recruiting was so intense Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey entered an Armstead class at Pleasant Grove, greeted the students and made it clear he wanted Armstead in Irish gear within days as an early entry.
"I'm glad it's over," Armstead said. "I'm really happy with my choice."