An offer didn’t actually materialize until this spring, well after Solomon Vault had already drummed up substantial interest from numerous schools with his electric perimeter skills and straightline speed. An academic formality was the reason behind the delay.
The only thing preventing superbacks coach Bob Heffner from offering Vault in December, when Heffner visited him at Gaithersburg High School, was his SAT score.
“I consider it one of my first offers,” Vault said Friday night, just two days after making his verbal commitment to Northwestern. “The only reason I didn’t get it was myself. My academics.”
When he finally received the offer, Vault was ecstatic. He knew what he needed to accomplish in order to get his wish, where his standardized test scores needed to be, and after an intensively long SAT preparation class, Vault’s hard work had finally paid off.
“Every day Saturday and Sunday,” he said, referring to his SAT preparation classes. “It was awful.”
The motivation to receive a scholarship from Northwestern pushed him past his previous academic limitations, but the Wildcats weren’t the only school on his plate. Vault could have just as easily settled for another program – Big Ten power Nebraska offered earlier this week – and given up on an otherwise grueling period of academic tutelage.
It never crossed his mind. With the fervent backing of his parents, who constantly reminded Vault of the importance of attending a program with upstanding academic import, the prism by which he viewed his growing list of offers narrowed to a singular end point.
Sure, Nebraska is a nice program and sure, Tennessee is trying to remake itself into an SEC powerhouse. “Athletically, yes,” he said. “Academically, they don’t compare with Northwestern.”
Beyond a first-rate education, Vault was attracted by what he believes is a “rising program” with a likely AP Poll top-25 distinction coming this Fall and a coaching staff with “stability” (Vault specifically mentioned Pat Fitzgerald’s contract extension, right down to its year of expiration, 2020). Seeing the Wildcats win their first bowl game in more than 60 years during the heart of his college recruitment didn’t hurt matters, either.
“Winning a bowl game for the first time in so long, that’s huge,” he said. “Coming in this year ranked in the top 25 is big, too. The 2013 class is great, and the 2014 group is really starting to take shape. I think we’ll be able to compete with anybody in the Big Ten.”
Every basic consideration – the recruiting uptick, the Bowl win, the academics, the coaching staff – has long been hardwired into Vault’s reservoir of Wildcat knowledge. Those general qualities drew him in initially. A detailed breakdown of former Northwestern receiver Jeremy Ebert from receivers coach Dennis Springer on last week's visit -- and the clarity with which Vault then saw himself fitting within the constructs of the Wildcats' spread offense -- nudged him closer.
It was Heffner’s counsel and academic urging that provided the final impetus for Vault to make a decision Wednesday night. Following a detailed discussion of scholarship specifics, and a long talk with his parents, Vault came to a conclusion. He was ready to make the decision his below-par test scores had precluded for months. Northwestern had everything Vault wanted, so why push back the very thing he worked so hard to attain in the first place?
“I didn’t feel like I needed to wait any longer,” he said. “I told my parents I wasn’t going to see anything else at any other school that was going to change my mind.”
No more weekend SAT classes; no more uncertainty; no more entertaining offers from competing programs. “I just felt it was the right time," he said. Just, Northwestern.
(for a quick look at Northwestern's 2014 class, check out our recruiting board.)