CANTON, Ohio — In a press box overlooking a snow-covered field at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, Eric Glover-Williams’ long and winding and sometimes tumultuous recruitment came to a ceremonial end. As if he scoured his entire wardrobe for appropriate attire, he was dressed in a scarlet and gray suit. He wore an Ohio State tie. His hat said Buckeyes.
“It's been rough,” he said to the crowd of family members, friends and teachers gathered Wednesday morning, “but hey: We made it."
It was a fitting tribute for a journey of highs and self-inflicted lows for the star athlete from Canton McKinley High School who committed his services to head coach Urban Meyer a year-and-a-half ago. And since he was the first member of the 2015 recruiting class to pledge his allegiance to the Buckeyes, he figured it was only right that he be first to fax in his official letter of intent on National Signing Day, too.
Yet as Glover-Williams beamed and posed for dozens photos with those gathered to see him at his finest hour and as he cut, served and ate his celebratory Ohio State-themed cake, it was a reminder of how this was a moment almost capsized after he got into a fight at school last spring, the nature of which was captured by cameras in the hallways.
Because of this, the Buckeyes cooled on Glover-Williams — one of Ohio’s top high school players who was supposed to be the face of this year’s talented and dynamic crop of incoming players — and his future playing football in Columbus became unclear.
After keeping a low-profile last summer, he found himself inching back into the good graces of Ohio State’s coaching staff, which invited him to the school’s annual recruiting spectacle, Friday Night Lights, at Ohio Stadium in late July. After the camp, Glover-Williams reaffirmed his commitment to Meyer and company.
Six months later, as he smiled for pictures and hugged friends and family, Glover-Williams appears comfortable in the glare of a spotlight that will only get brighter at Ohio State. For a while, though, he said it placed him on an unusual and uncomfortable “pedestal.”
"You always got eyes looking at you, there’s a lot of things that you don’t really see, there’s a lot of stuff that you’ve got to grow up and mature as early as you can,” he said. "I’ve grown up so much, it’s kind of surprised myself.”
His mother, Ann Williams, said, "he’s growing in challenges, picking good friends and that’s hard when you’re young and you’ve got so many people that are putting themselves on you."
"You know, you get people that you don’t know wanting to be your friend so trying to weed out who are really friends and who are people you can truly hang out with," she continued. "It’s been a tough ride, but he’s growing and learning."
Ruth Zitnik, Canton McKinley’s principal, said, there was an Glover-Williams had to overcome an inherent dissonance in achieving a high-profile status so early in life.
"That it was a lot to handle with a lot of people talking about you, speculating, the media puts a lot of things out there that aren’t necessarily accurate and for an adult that’s hard to handle but for a young kid that’s in high school, then you deal with all your peers that have comments about it," she said. "I think that’s been challenging for him."
In the spring, she said, it was as if Glover-Williams realized what was at stake.
"I think he really kind of hit that moment of recognizing what he had at his fingertips," she said. "He always kind of was told he was special — I think at that point he recognized that he had a special gift and that he could really capitalize on that."