Late Friday evening, WOOD TV8 sports TV anchor Jack Doles had a message for every Michigan fan eagerly tuning in for the local news. Doles talked about highly touted Wolverines commit Drake Harris, then he had a second topic ready for discussion: his son, Tommy, had also reached a college decision. Doles was going to Northwestern, and his father was going to let everyone with two eyes on the local sports newscast know about it.
Wolverines fans might have had some reason for disappointment, even after learning about Harris' (Doles' high school teammate) immense receiving talents, because not only did Doles choose to leave his home state, he eschewed an offer from the Wolverines – Doles’ first offer, and a school that, per the modern Midwest recruiting conventional wisdom, rarely sees its coveted in-state prospects venture elsewhere.
But for Doles, Northwestern was the better fit.
“Michigan had a lot of great things to offer,” he said Sunday, less than two days after giving his verbal commitment to Northwestern. “But personally, I just felt like Northwestern was the better place for me.”
All the obvious attractions – unrivaled Big Ten academics, location a mere L-ride’s trip away from nearby Chicago, loads of programmatic momentum coming off a 10-win season and unprecedented recruiting territory – had Doles hooked, but it wasn’t until he visited Northwestern twice, until he stayed overnight with redshirt freshman lineman Ian Park and really got to know his potential future teammates and coaches, that Doles knew Northwestern was the best possible choice.
Between early-March contact with defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz and Friday night’s commitment, Doles’ attraction to Northwestern grew, even as Michigan and all three service academies remained strong candidates. “I was still considering the service academies for a long time. Michigan was there too,” he said.
Something struck him late Friday night, and all of a sudden, the decision was too simple to further prolong. Doles knew where he wanted to spend his next four years, so he called up coach Pat Fitzgerald, gave some of the other schools recruiting him a courteous “thanks but no thanks,” and gave his future head coach the good news.
“I had time to go over everything,” he said. “And when I put it all together, I knew Northwestern was the place I was looking for. I didn’t want to wait much longer after that so I decided to make the decision.”
Then Doles tried something new – he sent out his first tweet. Ever. His timing was immaculate: Doles’ first 140-character salvo wasn’t just an official welcome to today’s most rapidly-expanding insta-blog interface. It was also an official digital hello to the Northwestern Twitterati.
“I’m not really good at tweeting,” he said. “Hopefully I can work on that.”
We can weigh the merits of Doles’ social media competence in due time. What he is most definitely good at is protecting the quarterback and opening up lanes for running backs. His skill set and experience fits perfectly with Northwestern's stylistic bent, who, like Grand Rapids High School, runs an uptempo offense. Doles plans to play tackle for the Wildcats and – right in line with his lean, 6’5’’, 260-pound physique – he likes the quick and athletic mold of the Wildcats line. “It’s a good fit,” he says.
The line is a good fit. The school and the program and the coaching staff and the people are all good fits. What’s not to like?
School: Grand Rapids Christian (MI)
Other offers: Air Force, Army, Iowa State, Michigan
Profiles: Scout, Rivals, ESPN
Notes: Committed to NU on May 3; Our analysis of his commitment; Visited first weekend of March; Michigan was leader in January, according to Scout