There were no dreams of eventually committing to Alabama. No dreams of shaking hands with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban to solidify that pledge.
On Oct. 27, 2012, Norman (Okla.) North quarterback David Cornwell was making his first visit to Tuscaloosa. He had no idea five visits and eight months later he would be an ESPN 300 quarterback pledging to play for Bama.
Alabama wasn’t even Cornwell’s first college of the day on that day. Cornwell started that Saturday in Arkansas to be put through the media ringer with Tom Lemming. With that completed, he hopped a flight to Alabama to watch the Tide dismantle Mississippi State.
He was still relatively under the radar. A solid junior season at Jones (Okla.) High helped him get him on the map.
Coaches had been telling Cornwell the recruiting process was going to be intense. He wanted to believe it, but there was no proof heading into the winter.
He had an Indiana offer and other schools were showing interest. Dedication by his parents helped Cornwell’s dream become a reality, too.
“You have to make a lot of sacrifices, but we believe it’s worth it,” said Ron Cornwell, David’s father. “He needed to experience everything he could.”
David Cornwell was going from college to college during his junior season, but it became amped up to another level during the winter and spring.
And then the offers started to come in. Auburn made Cornwell stop and take notice. When the Tide came along, yeah, that’s when Cornwell knew his previous coaches were right about the process.
“I was waiting and then things started to pile on in the spring,” Cornwell said. “The Bama offer came, and it was like ‘OK, let’s stick with them.’ “
The Alabama offer was certainly different than the rest. For one thing, it wasn’t a committable offer when it came his way early in the spring.
The deal was the same for all the quarterbacks. It didn’t matter that Cornwell is a massive 6-foot-5, 235 pounds and ranked No. 34 in the ESPN 300.
Alabama played by its own rules. You couldn’t commit until you showed what you could do at camp. Cornwell never had a problem with it and came ready to play earlier this month.
“I understood it, and it made sense,” Cornwell said. “The quarterback is the one player you really want to know. Coach Saban can’t really see you and recruit you. He’s a busy man. I had no problems with it.”
Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had also made a strong connection, giving Bama a potent one-two punch in his recruitment.
But if anybody thinks it was Bama or bust, they’re wrong. Tennessee was in the picture for a long time, but no school challenged the Tide more than Virginia Tech.
It all happened two weeks ago. Cornwell said he was supposed to visit Blacksburg, Va., for 23 hours. It turned into a three-day excursion that made things a whole lot more interesting. The Hokies’ pro-style offense was intriguing to Cornwell.
Cornwell didn’t go home to Oklahoma. He went straight from Virginia to Alabama. He met with Saban at 11 a.m. and committed to the Tide.
He spent the next 4-5 hours informing the coaches at other schools he was headed to Bama and then went public with a tweet around 4 p.m.
“David has done a great job of handling everything,” Norman North coach Wade Standley said. “I believe young men like David are resilient, and he has been the same since day one – energetic and ready to go.”
Cornwell said by far the toughest call was to Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler. Cornwell had developed such a strong bond with Loeffler, but Cornwell was determined to have the decision done in June and no school offered the whole package like Alabama.
A week before his commitment, Cornwell got more good news when he learned he is being granted a fifth year of eligibility and will be able to play his senior season at Norman North. Cornwell transferred to Norman North from Jones following the season.
Norman North reached the state championship game for the first time in school history last season without Cornwell. He’s hoping to be the missing ingredient this season.
“He’s a hard worker,” Standley said. “He has fit right in from day one. He’s committed, coachable, teachable. It’s a pleasure to have him.”
Cornwell’s summer is almost done. He has trips to Oregon next month for the Elite 11 finals and The Opening. After that, Cornwell can do something he hasn’t done in a long while – rest.
“I hated being on the road so much sometimes, but I had to do it that way,” Cornwell said. “Recruiting is a once in a lifetime process. I encourage everybody to do it. You build those relationships. It’s not just for now. You’re building these relationships for the future. But I am happy to be done.”