Recruiting -- it's quite a process

Storm Johnson, appropriately, will play for the Hurricanes. See what led the tailback to Coral Gables. David De Pas for ESPN.com

ESPN RISE staffer Brian Stumpf cuts through the recruiting hyperbole to determine what led some of the nation's top football players to make college decisions.

What were the top three factors in making your college choice?

Elite 11 QB and UA All-American Devin Gardner, a Michigan early enrollee: "The ability for me to be successful after football. How comfortable I am at the university. The likelihood of early playing time."

Elite 11 QB and Army All-American Austin Hinder, a Cal recruit: "Location -- you must love and be comfortable with the place you're going to be living for the next four-five years.

"Education -- you can't play football forever so you need to have that degree to fall back with, and the better the degree the more likely you will be successful in life.

"Coaching Staff -- you need to trust your coaches and have a good relationship with them because those are the people who will make you become a successful player."

LB Aramide Olaniyan, a Champion GridIron King selection and UCLA recruit: "Academics was the No. 1 factor for me. My parents made sure that I only looked at schools that were prestigious academically. The second thing I looked at was if I wasn't playing football would I be happy going to that school, and at UCLA I was more than happy.

"Last but not least, I had to make sure I had a good relationship with the head coach because position coaches come and go all the time. I really like my relationship with Coach [Rick] Neuheisel, and I cannot wait to play under him."

Miami recruit, UA All-American and Champion GridIron King RB Storm Johnson: "Education, the coaching staff, and the position coach. I wanted to be close to the head coach, but more importantly I wanted to have that bond with my position coach."

UCF offensive line recruit Zachary Soto: "For me it was the three A's: academics, athletics-winning program, and atmosphere of the school. I had a good time on my unofficial last June and liked everything about the school."

QB Mike Miller, currently undecided but will sign DI or I-AA: "The top three factors I focused on were coaching staff, location and playing time."

FB Ben Emert, a Wake Forest recruit: "Scheme/college coaches, academics, and campus. I chose Wake Forest because it was the perfect school for me and the coaches were honest with me from the start."

What was the craziest/funniest thing that happened to you on the recruiting trail?

"After I committed to Michigan, all the Ohio State fans saying how I wasn't going to do well and will be a loser at Michigan." -- Devin Gardner.

"I would say a couple trips to [Colorado] were crazy, but there's really not just one thing that jumps out at me... Some schools would put me on the cover of a magazine and create a whole story for it, which was sweet." -- Austin Hinder.

"The craziest thing was having a coach from a certain school telling me not to forget what I got the scholarship for when I told him I want to get a great education." -- Aramide Olaniyan.

"Everyone finding out who you are and people you don't know sending you messages on Facebook. Some girls even asked me to marry them (laughing)." -- Storm Johnson.

"The craziest thing is if a school wants you they will stalk you literally. Another thing is if you commit to another school other schools try to recruit you just as hard. That was new for me." -- Zachary Soto.

"I met Coach [Willie] Taggart at Western Kentucky and I didn't know he who was. I said, 'Hey coach, what do you do here?' He replied, 'I coached Toby Gerhart at Stanford and now I'm the head coach at the school you are visiting.' We shared a good laugh at that one." -- QB Mike Miller.

"Seeing my name on recruiting blogs and people asking for my autograph." -- Ben Emert.

What is some advice a college or high school coach gave you that stands out when you look back on the recruiting process?

"I was told not to choose a college for anyone else but myself because I was the person that would have to attend that university for the next four years." -- Devin Gardner.

"Just whenever you get criticized take it as a stepping stone to get better, don't ever let it bring you down or make you question your abilities... And be the hardest worker." -- Austin Hinder.

"The best advice I have received from a coach was to make sure I was making the best decision for myself and not for anyone else or program." -- Aramide Olaniyan.

"Someone told me along the way to 'Make your own decisions and pick a school that's best for you. Don't let anyone pick the school for you.'" -- Storm Johnson.

"I started playing football my junior year. My head coach (at Miami Monsignor Pace) Alvin Slaughter told me, 'It's good to be polite to recruiters and answer, 'Yes, sir, no, sir.' But when you get on the field, you have be a mean, kid. You can't hold back, you have to compete for your spot, and work hard.'" -- Zachary Soto.

"Recruiting is an up and down process. New Mexico quarterbacks coach Tee Martin told me, 'Stay balanced. One day a school will be on you and the next they won't. Learn to keep everything in perspective.'" -- Mike Miller.

"One of my strength coaches said, 'Do what's right all the time and good things will work out for you.'" -- Ben Emert.