Cesar Ruiz's long and winding path to the University of Michigan took him from Camden to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to last week's entertaining Bleacher Report-produced video of his commitment to the Wolverines.
But it started when Ruiz was a sophomore at his hometown high school and just starting to make his mark as one of the top offensive linemen in the country.
"I visited there when I was a sophomore with Brad [Hawkins] and Ron [Johnson]," Ruiz said of former Camden High teammates. "Michigan offered me then and they kept recruiting me.
"I ended up with something like 35 offers. But they were one of five schools that just kept recruiting me from Day One.
"That meant a lot."
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Ruiz is ranked as the No. 1 center in the recruiting class of 2017, according to 247Sports composite rankings. He is a four-star recruit by rivals.com.
Ruiz played for Camden High as a sophomore but left to attend IMG and play for the prestigious prep school as a junior and senior.
"It was everything I hoped it would be," Ruiz said of his experience at IMG. "It definitely helped me. It got me ready for college."
In keeping with some of the more creative ways that top players are announcing their commitments, Ruiz said he asked Bleacher Report to produce a video for him.
In the video, Ruiz is sitting on a couch in an apartment and watching an infomercial on television, with the announcer asking him to "act now" and commit to either Michigan, Auburn or Florida.
Ruiz turns off the television when he hears a knock on the door. He finds a package with a blue-and-gold bow, opens it, holds up a Michigan jersey, smiles and says, "Go Blue."
"I loved it," Ruiz said. "I told them I wanted to do a video and they came up with the idea. I was cracking up when I saw it."
Ruiz had offers from almost every top program in the country, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Ohio State and Penn State, among others.
He said Michigan's success in recruiting New Jersey players such as Jabrill Peppers and Rashon Gary as well as his former teammates Johnson and Hawkins was a factor in his decision.
Johnson is a freshman defensive end for the Wolverines. Hawkins is expected to arrive in Michigan in May after spending this school year at Suffield Academy, a prep school in Connecticut.
Ruiz plans to enroll at Michigan in January to get a jump on his classes and prepare for spring workouts.
"It definitely makes it easier," Ruiz said of having Johnson and Hawkins with him in Ann Arbor. "Me and Brad, we've been playing together since we were 8 years old. I met Ron when I was a freshman but we're close.
"It just makes you more comfortable."
Smyth to Monmouth. Former Palmyra star quarterback Max Smyth committed to Monmouth this week.
Smyth spent last season at Jireh Prep in Matthews, N.C. He said he plans to enroll at Monmouth in January.
"I like the coaches, I like what they're doing there," Smyth said of Monmouth.
Smyth also had offers from Delaware State, Alabama A&M and Robert Morris. He said proximity to home was a factor in his decision to commit to Monmouth.
As a senior at Palmyra in 2015, Smyth teamed with wide receiver Kelvin Harmon, now at North Carolina State, to lead the Panthers to a 10-2 record and a berth in the Central Jersey Group 1 final.
Smyth passed for 3,090 yards and 33 touchdowns that season.
Last season at Jireh Prep, the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Smyth threw 24 touchdown passes.
"It couldn't have worked out any better," Smyth said of his postgraduate season at Jireh Prep. "I feel like I'm college-ready."
Group offer. Rhode Island apparently is impressed with the South Jersey Group 5 champions.
Rhode Island has made offers to four Millville players in the class of 2018: all-purpose players Clayton Scott and Marcial Ramos, wide receiver/defensive back Carlton Lawrence and defensive lineman Dylan Washington.
The four athletes were instrumental in the Thunderbolts' drive to the program's first sectional title since 1975 and will be a big reason the team will be near the top of the 2017 preseason Top 25 rankings.
Wolfe to Monmouth. Williamstown senior offensive lineman Marc Wolfe has committed to Monmouth, according to Braves coach Frank Fucetola.
The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Wolfe was a second-team All-South Jersey selection.
"He was nicked up early but after the Atlantic City game (Oct. 14), he went on a tear," Fucetola said. "It's a great spot for him."
This and that. Former Pennsville coach Ryan Wood, who resigned after the season, said he was open to remaining with the Eagles as offensive coordinator or taking that position at another program. . . . Hammonton senior all-purpose Malachi Winters is committed to Army, according to coach Jim Raso. Winters, a quarterback and defensive back, was injured in the opener and missed the rest of the season after shoulder surgery. . . . Salem senior running back Jon Taylor, a Wisconsin recruit, will play for the USA U19 team at the North American championships in Orlando, Fla., in late January. . . . Cinnaminson two-way lineman Keith Swartley is likely to commit to West Chester (Pa.) State, according to coach Mario Patrizi.