CELINA, Texas -- The 5,200-mile road trip through the southeast over the summer consisted of many consistencies for Jake Raulerson and his father, Jay.
Among them included routine stops at Cracker Barrel, nightly stays at Motel 6 and a heaping dose of country music.
There was one song playing at the time that Jay felt best fit their excursion, one that took them throughout the nation's hotbed for college football on a quest to find a suitable fit for Jake, a two-way lineman from Celina (Texas) with 27 scholarship offers to date.
"We were sitting in a restaurant in Oxford, Miss.," Jay said. "At the time there was a song out by Trace Adkins called 'Just Fishin'.' I told Jake, 'We're just fishin.'
"It took him five or six hours longer but the song came on again, and he got emotional and said, 'Yeah we are.' "
Boy, did they.
The Raulersons got their proverbial rod and reel and cast out Jake's abilities as bait to Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss.
Having already dominated Texas' June 5 camp, Jake picked up offers at every stop.
The Raulersons also took trips to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, SMU, Texas A&M, TCU, LSU and Stanford.
Because Jake isn't a senior, all of the trips he took had to be paid for by him and his family. Prospects aren't allowed to take official visits (when schools pay your way) until their senior season.
But the Raulersons thought it would be beneficial if they took the time, and spent the money, to let Jake experience these programs first-hand so he could make a commitment with a clear conscience, having left no stone unturned.
"I believe that it gave me an edge," Jake said. "It helps. Some families don't have the opportunity to go to all of these places (on unofficial visits). It helps. If you are from Texas and one of your favorite schools is Florida, Alabama or Tennessee, it's a long way from home. If you never get the chance to be able to see it, then you lose your advantage if you go there and commit and don't like it. It's because you never got the chance to look at it."
Jake was well aware of the monetary sacrifice that his family made for those trips, so he made sure to get his money's worth.
"I made sure I looked at every detail of everywhere I went," he said. "The coaches, the campus, the atmosphere. You could ask me one little thing about the schools, and I could tell you what I liked, didn't like. It gives me the upper hand in knowing what is right for me."
And for that, Jake is forever grateful.
"My dad is the greatest man on the earth," Jake said. "He is the greatest person and supports me in everything I do. He has spent so much time, so much money and so much effort into making me who I am. I got my offers from what I did on the field, but a huge part has to go to my recruiting video and getting that out there, and talking to coaches and driving 5,200 miles in the summer to visit Alabama, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, etc. I couldn't do that by myself. That was my dad. He spent his hard-earned money."
To Jay, the expense was completely worth it. The trips allowed his son to comfortably commit to Texas on Feb. 3. He is the first player committed to the Longhorns in 2013, and one of the rare few to get an offer and commit to Texas before its first junior day, which won't happen until Feb. 12.
"It was more a case of I wanted him to have the option to be able to say to Texas that, 'Yeah, I am done,' " Jay said. "He wanted to make sure that he had done his due-diligence. We bit the bullet and paid the price. It sucks being there on an unofficial when everyone else is there on an official, because they were coming and collecting money for meals. Everyone else was there on the school's nickel. The purpose was to put him in a position to do what he wanted."
Jake not only did what he wanted by committing to Texas, but he also did what the Longhorns' staff wanted as well. Both parties involved want Jake to be the bell cow of this class, the one to lead it into another top-3 national ranking.
"I want to be the guy that helps bring this class in to make winning a national title possible," Jake said.
If you don't think Jake is taking it to heart, look no further than the necklace of a bell hanging around the tree trunk he calls a neck. He'll put those recruitment skills to work at Texas' junior day this weekend.
"He wants to be the bell cow," Jay said. "Texas has this thing about the first kid being the one to help bring in everyone else. Jake's personality is just that. He's charismatic, makes friends easily. He's a pleaser."
Apparently he's a pretty good fisherman, as well.
William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.
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