Pierce Clarkson, one of the country's top high school quarterbacks in the class of 2023, told ESPN he has verbally committed to Louisville.
Clarkson plays for national power St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California, and is the No. 89 recruit in the ESPN Junior 300.
His commitment to Louisville went public early Friday morning via 13 billboards that his family purchased in the Louisville area to announce his intentions. The billboard reads: "Dear Louisville, I'm home. Let's build something special together. Love Pierce Clarkson."
Both the spirit and the ambition tied to his commitment offer a window into a new era of college football recruiting.
Clarkson is choosing Louisville primarily for reasons that both reflect the traditional tenets of recruiting decisions -- fit, playing time and his relationship with coach Scott Satterfield and the Cardinals' staff -- and suggest how the recruiting world might look in the future.
In the micro, Clarkson stressed multiple times to ESPN that he appreciated the "priority" the staff put on him in his recruitment as the top quarterback on their board.
"The opportunity there is something that's one of a kind," Clarkson told ESPN. "I felt like it's the best place for me and my future."
In the macro scope, the decision also reflects the changing landscape of college football amid a transformative time. Louisville is well positioned as a fertile program to leverage new rules that allow athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. Behind Clarkson's early commitment and public fidelity to Louisville are the hopes of helping lure a top 2023 recruiting class to the school to push the program into the elite.
Clarkson's father, noted quarterback tutor Steve Clarkson, paid to put up the billboards around Louisville to show how serious the Clarksons are about their commitment to the school and what they hope to help build there.
"We wanted to show that we're not doing this to decommit," Steve Clarkson said. "We're getting married, that's basically what we're saying."
Pierce Clarkson's decision to pick Louisville over schools such as Florida State, Oregon and Ole Miss and help recruit an elite class of 2023 there also offers a hint into what recruiting could look like in the future. Clarkson noted that the ability for him and his future teammates to capitalize on NIL deals in the city of Louisville -- one of the biggest in the country without an NFL team -- was a factor in his decision.
"NIL is definitely taking the college football world by storm, and it's something that's impacting a lot of kids' decisions in some sort of ways," Pierce Clarkson said. "I wanted to pick the school that best fit me and my skill set and who'd develop me and prepare me.
"The opportunity with NIL always came second. It happened to just kind of work out. I don't know exactly what's going to happen [with NIL], but I know that there's great opportunities."
Both Clarkson and his father see Louisville as a school built for the NIL era. The city with a population of 784,065 and the passionate fan base provide an environment rife with potential. There are more than 40 football recruits visiting Louisville this weekend for the school's basketball game with Duke on Saturday. Pierce Clarkson said he knows many of them through social media and hopes his commitment there will spark a chain reaction. He'll quickly switch from recruit to recruiter.
"I'm looking forward to building something special," he said. "I think I can not only help build one of the best 2023 classes, but I want to be part of building something special with that program and bring Louisville back to where I know it could be and I believe it could be."
Pierce Clarkson grew up watching Lamar Jackson star at Louisville and win the school's first Heisman Trophy there in 2016. He has clicked with Satterfield and quarterbacks coach Pete Thomas and credited the entire staff for making an effort to get to know him in recruiting.
"Looking at Lamar Jackson and what he did with his career there, he did something special," Clarkson said. "I want to go on in my college career and do something special like he did, but in my own way."
Part of the potential of Louisville is tied to the ability to have an impact in the ACC. "The ACC being wide open is definitely something that's appealing to me, and I look forward to going after and keep stacking on greater goals and greater accomplishments," he said.
Steve Clarkson has worked with players who include Matt Leinart, Ben Roethlisberger and former Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater.
He did a deep dive on the Louisville roster, seeing past the program's 6-7 record in 2021. He saw that a majority of the players were underclassmen, meaning they got valuable experience and are poised to return and improve. While Steve Clarkson appreciated how Louisville made clear early on that his son was the top player on its board -- "you have to go where they really want you" -- he also stressed that the program winning big is a critical factor.
"The opportunity to win and play early were the biggest factors," Steve Clarkson said. "All the other stuff that could happen only will happen if you're good and you're winning. Winning sets the table for everything else."
Steve Clarkson said that with college sports in an era of "free agency" that the ability for the popularity of the school in the local area to provide a strong infrastructure for NIL work looms as a factor in choosing a school. (Louisville is an Adidas-sponsored school, and Steve Clarkson's quarterback camps are sponsored by Adidas, which he said had no bearing on his son's decision.)
"In today's climate, you have to ask yourself, 'Could this program have the opportunity to be successful?'" Steve Clarkson said. "A lot of people are still trying to figure out how this NIL is going to work. The first thing you have to be able to have is a corporate foundation and base in the surrounding area that will support it. Louisville has that in its favor."
With incumbent Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham entering his redshirt senior season, there will be an open battle for his replacement after the 2022 season. Pierce Clarkson aims to battle to win the job after arriving as an early enrollee in January 2023. And then he hopes to build from there.
"That city, that school, that place is special," Pierce Clarkson said. "Me and my family, we all believe that. I want to go out there, and that's where I want to build my legacy."