In the end, 2013 Washington safety/linebacker Calvin Chandler decided to follow his heart. Last week, Chandler switched his commitment from Yale to Stanford, accepting a walk-on offer from the Cardinal.
Chandler would have been one of the top recruits in the Bulldogs' class, and would have likely had a chance to contribute early at Yale, but he felt he couldn't turn down the chance to play for a school he'd long aspired to attend.
"I saw it as an opportunity I couldn't pass up," Chandler said. "Stanford's always been my dream school since I was a little kid. The whole thing was kind of a different process with everything happening after signing day, but after I visited (Stanford) and saw the campus and really got a good feel for the program, I really saw myself being there and I thought it would just be the perfect fit."
It wasn't any easy decision.
"It was really difficult for me just because I committed to Yale," Chandler said. "It was after signing day and everything, but the Yale thing's not binding, and so even though I was committed, it wasn't a set in stone decision for either party. They could have dropped me if something came up, or I could have switched like I did. And so when Stanford came calling, I saw it as really a good fit for me. It was tough, but it was one of those things I had to talk a lot to my coaches and after a lot of talking and thinking about it, the more and more I started to realize that Stanford was the perfect fit, it being my dream school and being a school that could give me an opportunity to push myself both athletically at the highest level and academically at the highest level. I just saw it as something I couldn't pass up on. That was kind of what ended up making me change."
An early March visit to Stanford helped convince Chandler that Stanford was the best fit. He spent time with his former high school teammate and current Cardinal freshman wide receiver Michael Rector, as well as freshman walk-on Sam Shober, who's also from Washington.
"I was really luck that Michael (Rector) was already down there, so I stayed with him the first night," Chandler said. "There was also a player named Sam Shober who's a linebacker walk-on, he's kind of in similar shoes that I was in. He was looking at some of the Ivy League offers and he chose to go to Stanford. He's from Archbishop Murphy, which is kind of just North of where I live, so he's a local guy, and I stayed with him the second night. And so just being able to stay with guys who are from the area, guys who I knew really well, made things really comfortable, and I was really able to click with them and then just they really introduced me to the rest of the team and just made me feel really welcome, so that was definitely huge. I felt like one of the guys off the bat, and so it was nice being able to have those two guys host."
Chandler didn't have a shortage of college choices. In addition to several Ivy League and Big Sky programs, Chandler held offers from Idaho, Wyoming, Army, Navy and Air Force. Washington and UCLA also extended him preferred walk-on spots.
Stanford's pursuit of Chandler began earlier than it does with many walk-on prospects. Defensive line coach Randy Hart visited Chandler's high school several times during the 2012 recruiting cycle largely for Rector, but Hart also took notice of Chandler.
"It started out I first met Coach Hart, my recruiting coach, when he was over here recruiting Michael," Chandler said. "I've been talking to him ever since. He came up here a couple of times. I talked to him throughout the recruiting process."
Chandler visited Stanford for the first time last summer to attend one of the Card's summer camps. Though Chandler was still rehabbing a torn hamstring, the camp and ensuing Junior Day were positive experiences.
"It was a really good experience for me this summer," Chandler said. "I was kind of at a disadvantage just because I tore my hamstring at one of the first camps, and so it worked out nice that the Stanford camp was kind of towards the end of the summer. So my hamstring was rehabbing and starting to get better. I couldn't participate in all of the drills, but it was the first thing I kind of did really actively I got back on my hamstring. It was just a really good opportunity to come down and visit. There was a Junior Day that day and we were able to kind of meet some of the recruits and also meet the coaches, get a good feel for the program… The camp part was hard just because I had the hamstring so I wasn't able to visit many colleges over the summer, but Stanford being my No. 1 choice, I still wanted to make the trip out there."
When Chandler next travels to Palo Alto, it'll likely be to enroll in college at Stanford. Though he won't be at Stanford for summer school, Chandler is expected to have a spot on the roster for the start of training camp in early August. But he might arrive in Palo Alto even a few weeks before then to get a head start on his career.
"I'll be able to start practice as soon as everyone else," Chandler said. "I'm not going to the summer school, but we have family members and some good family friends who live in Palo Alto, and so I might just come down early in the summer and still work out with the team even though I wouldn't be going to school. I'd either be coming in beginning of camp or like mid-July if I decide to come and work out with everyone."
Chandler expects to begin his Cardinal career as a defensive back, but could wind up playing several other positions depending on how his body develops.
"They see me starting off as a safety, working with some of the defensive backs," Chandler said. "I think with my combination of size and speed they think I'd be a pretty good fit there, but they said they really want to see how my body develops once I get under their workout program and where is the best opportunity to play and the best opportunity to help the team. They said they potentially might switch me to outside backer, inside backer, or even maybe a receiver, so it's still kind of up for grabs, but they're kind of leaning on safety at this moment."
All things being even, Chandler said that he would prefer to play on the defensive side of the ball, but he wouldn't mind an opportunity on offense.
"I do want to play defense," Chandler said. "I wouldn't mind between playing either safety, outside or middle backer. I played all three in high school. Either of those I'd be fine with. If the possibility or opportunity at a receiver position is better, then I wouldn't mind playing that either, it's just one of things that I love playing football, I love competing, and so either way I'd be happy."
Chandler is considering a major in human biology or MS&E (Management, Science and Engineering). He's excited to begin the next chapter of his education and football career.
"There are a lot of things I'm looking forward to," Chandler said. "I'm really looking forward to meeting the team, being a part of the program, the tradition. Where they're at right now, coming off the Rose Bowl victory, there's a lot of high energy and I think that it's definitely a program that's on the rise. I still think that they haven't peaked, they're only getting better. And so I'm really excited to be a part of that program and just pushing myself academically as well and being a student-athlete, I'm really looking forward to the challenge."