Alabama, Clemson, Mississippi State and Ole Miss made the final cut for Jerrion Ealy, and a golden football brought his decision.
Ealy stood up from his table and unofficially snagged the first catch of his college career. The 5-star running back then revealed an Ole Miss hat.
Normally, a player of his caliber would be met with raucous cheers and unrestrained joy. After all, the Rebels regained the prized commit of their 2019 class. Ealy gave a verbal pledge to the program in December 2017 but backed off less than a month before national signing day. Between then and Wednesday, Clemson even began to trend as his future home.
He's locked in with Ole Miss. But why the hesitation?
That golden football might be the only thing he'll catch for the Rebels.
Ealy is an exceptionally talented baseball player. According to MaxPreps, the outfielder has posted a .377 batting average with 47 walks, 77 runs and 41 RBI over the last two seasons. Perfect Game considers him the No. 7 high school prospect.
Recently, Baseball America slotted him as the eighth overall choice in a 2019 MLB mock draft, per Chase Parham of Rivals. Last year, the slot value of the No. 8 pick was $4.98 million.
Additionally, shortly after making his decision, Ealy acknowledged on ESPN2 that baseball has his heart.
"Right now, I'm just going to take it one step at a time," he said. "This is Step No. 1; and then Step No. 2 is finishing off the spring, and Step 3 is seeing what the draft provides."
Ealy is preparing for a complicated summer.
Should he choose the major league path, it would be understandable. But if Ealy continues his football and baseball careers in Oxford, he could become a rare two-sport superstar.
Undoubtedly, a majority of our minds are racing to Kyler Murray. Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback was the No. 9 overall selection of the 2018 MLB draft by the Oakland Athletics and has entered April's NFL draft. His athletic future remains a question.
But the situations are similar, not identical.
Ealy has recognized as much, telling ESPN.com's Tom VanHaaren that Murray proved himself in college. Ealy, conversely, is a projection in both sports.
Whereas Murray convinced the A's to allow him a year at Oklahoma as a redshirt junior―after which he'd be eligible for the NFL draft―Ealy doesn't have that luxury. Passing up an MLB contract would mean he's locked in for three years at Ole Miss.
Ealy still has a season of high school baseball to play, too. Prospect rankings change all the time in every sport, so his scouting report could shift significantly over the next few months. Ealy's performance on the diamond this spring might make the future clear.
His football assessment is finished, though. And it's outstanding.
The 5'10", 200-pounder is short but not small; patient yet powerful. He's capable of controlling defenders with a stiff-arm and running through arm tackles, and then quickly changing direction and reaching an impressive top speed. His balance is excellent.
247Sports compares Ealy to Ohio State runner J.K. Dobbins, who amassed 2,854 scrimmage yards on two Big Ten title-winning teams. Neither player will dominate as a pass-catcher, but their versatility is a major asset.
Ealy's explosiveness and well-rounded skill set resulted in 5,551 yards from scrimmage and 94 total touchdowns. Then, during the Under Armour All-America Game, he scampered for 119 yards and two scores to win team MVP honors. Ealy thrived against top competition, and the SEC might be up next.
Rich Rodriguez, the new offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, could build the offense around Ealy. He's done the same previously with Ka'Deem Carey at Arizona and Steve Slaton at West Virginia.
Although that shouldn't be expected right away, it could happen soon. Scottie Phillips and Isaiah Woullard are back, but Phillips is a senior. At worst, Ealy would be a critical piece by 2020.
For good measure, he'd bolster an Ole Miss baseball program that has reached the NCAA tournament in 16 of the last 20 years and won the SEC tournament last season.
But there's no guarantee Ealy will ever head to Oxford.
Wednesday was a massive moment. Yet for Ealy, it only marked Step 1.
All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.