Columbus St. Francis DeSales outfielder Joey Velazquez is widely regarded as the top-rated baseball prospect in the state of Ohio for the Class of 2019.
The lefty is coming off a season in which he posted a .461 batting average with one home run and 31 runs batted in and became the first sophomore in program history to be named first-team all-state. So it should come as no surprise, then, that Velazquez received and accepted an offer to play baseball at Ohio State in September 2016.
Excited to say I'm going to continue my academic and athletic career at The Ohio State University— Joey Velazquez (@JoeyV242) September 14, 2016
Playing football at the next level wasn’t necessarily in the cards at that time for the 6-foot, 205-pound Velazquez, who — up until then — played only sparingly on special teams and in mop-up duty late in games. But on Tuesday afternoon, Velazquez received a life-altering offer from Michigan.
It’s undoubtedly the first of many scholarship offers Velazquez will receive following a strong junior year in which he racked up 495 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns while playing running back and wide receiver and 50 tackles, four pass break ups, three tackles for a loss and two interceptions on defense. But few will be as big as the one from the Wolverines — even for a self-admitted fan of the Buckeyes.
“To get an offer from the University of Michigan is very humbling and a great honor,” Velazquez told Eleven Warriors. “I love the game of football, and when you think about football and all of the great college programs [there are], Michigan is one of the greatest programs ever in college football.
“Of course [I grew up an Ohio State fan], but I’ve always had great respect for Michigan and love the rivalry.”
The Wolverines’ interest came as a total surprise to Velazquez, who actually just published his junior highlights to the recruiting site Hudl on Monday. His head coach, Ryan Wiggins, called him into his office during lunch to deliver the news.
Now Velazquez is faced with arguably the most difficult decision of his young life.
In a perfect world, he’d be able to play football and baseball at the same school. Michigan is offering such an opportunity. But there’s also a good chance he’ll be picked in next year’s Major League Baseball draft, and he’ll be forced to choose between a number of different paths.
“To be honest, this has all come at me really fast,” Velazquez said, noting he hasn’t made any decisions yet regarding his commitment to the Buckeyes’ baseball program. “I need to really think about everything.”
Of course, the next few months are only going to make things even more hectic for Velazquez. Coaches from football programs all over the country have started following and reaching out to him on social media, and a slew of new offers will certainly soon follow.
Ohio State has kept tabs on Velazquez over the last year — he was invited to attend the games against Oklahoma, UNLV and Penn State, where he met with defensive coordinator Greg Schiano and recruiting coordinator Ed Terwilliger. Now that the Buckeyes’ arch rival has extended an offer to a prospect in their back yard, though, I fully anticipate the staff to ramp up its pursuit of Velazquez.
Naturally, he downplayed what kind of impact an offer to play football at Ohio State would have.
“To get an offer from any Power 5 school is what anyone who plays football and loves it dreams of,” he said.
But if the Buckeyes do eventually offer, a chance to play football and baseball just a short drive from home — and for the team he’s spent his whole life cheering for — would be hard to turn down.