Dressed in a sharp black suit accented by a Maryland-red tie, 17-year-old Antonio Logan-El sat before a television camera yesterday at ESPN Zone in Baltimore, surrounded by Maryland football fans waving red pompoms and holding Terps signs. Highlights of his football games at Forestville High School in Prince George's County flashed on a giant screen behind him as the top offensive lineman in the state turned his college commitment into prime-time entertainment.
Logan-El first pulled a Florida cap out of a bag before declaring it wasn't the school for him and tossing it aside.
Then he held up a Tennessee cap, said a few words and threw it aside.
Finally, the senior got to the Maryland cap, said a few nice words about the program he originally committed to as a sophomore and then dropped it on the floor.
And so went the jaws of the Maryland fans.
Logan-El then held up a picture of him and Penn State coach Joe Paterno and committed to playing for the Nittany Lions.
"TRAI-TOR!" one fan yelled from the back of the room.
"HA-TER!" Logan-El's mom yelled back.
Suddenly the "WE ARE ... PENN STATE" chant broke out from a surprising number of Nittany Lions fans who had discreetly mixed in among the standing-room-only Terps crowd.
Penn State has now lured seven of the top 11 players in Maryland to Happy Valley. Four-star defensive tackle Phillip Taylor from Gwynn Park High also gave an oral commitment to the Nittany Lions yesterday -albeit without a national audience.
"It was very hard, but I had to do what was best for me," said Logan-El, who is rated a four-star recruit and the top offensive lineman in the state by rivals.com.
Logan-El said he didn't hear the fan call him a traitor, but said, "It shows you why Penn State was the best decision for me."
Rich Becker and his wife, Betsy, decided on a whim yesterday to make the drive from their home in Fleetwood, Pa., to downtown Baltimore for the announcement. "We thought he was going to go to Maryland because he had the red tie on and all of the fans here with their pompoms ... " Becker said. "It was pretty neat the way he did it."
Nick Roros, a Maryland season-ticket holder and Terrapin Club member, wasn't as impressed. He seemed angry.
"He committed to someone, gave him his word," Roros said. "Penn State is a fine school, but he committed himself to a man of the integrity of [Terps coach] Ralph Friedgen. ... Don't do that."
NCAA rules prevented coaches from either team from being at the restaurant during Logan-El's actual announcement, but after it was over, two assistants from Penn State's staff joined him and his family, including Larry Johnson, who recruited the 6-foot-4 guard. Offensive line coach Dick Anderson was also there.
Friedgen's wife, Gloria, was seated with a close friend of the family in a large center booth and on her cell phone through the entire announcement. As soon as Logan-El's broadcast was finished, she grabbed her coat and they were out the door.