The No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the country — Catawissa, Pennsylvania’s Julian Fleming — wasn’t sure where he wanted to go to school as the offers started flooding in.
Location would suggest a destined route to Penn State, the first and most-visited school on his radar. The Nittany Lions were among his early offers.
But while training for his junior season of high school with a litany of options, his phone rang. On the other end was soon-to-be Ohio State commit and four-star defensive back Lejond Cavazos, who spoke to Fleming about the university in Columbus, Ohio.
“It wasn’t even a pitch. It was just casual conversation,” Fleming said.
Once Cavazos knew he was going to be a Buckeye, he placed an emphasis on getting the best receiving talent possible to join him, and in doing so helped further his own development and the development of his Ohio State teammates.
“I wanted the best receivers to come so we could be the best DBs,” Cavazos said.
Cavazos’ nonpitch to Fleming sparked an intrigue in the star wideout.
At the time of the call, Ohio State was an afterthought for Fleming. An offer was on the table but his recruiting exploration was just beginning, he said.
Soon afterward in June 2018, he took an unofficial visit –– then another in November –– and through those experiences discovered it was the place for him.
“The main reason I looked into Ohio State was probably because of [Cavazos],” Fleming said. “Being able to research through the [recruiting] class and everything, and just see how special it was, and I finally came on a visit and I was like, ‘I like this place.’ And then I kept coming on visits, and I eventually fell in love.”
He and Cavazos wouldn’t meet face to face for another year after their phone call, but the two developed an enduring relationship that led to them now being roommates at Ohio State.
“We’re real opposites. And like I said, opposites attract,” Fleming said. “So he’s a real social type, likes to have a lot of friends and stuff. I’m more of a laid-back kind of person. I kind of chill in my room most of the time when I’m not in my class.”
Fleming is far from the only recruit Cavazos reached out to, however, because –– as he put it –– he wants to win a national title. That was Cavazos’ persuasion to the fellow prospects he spoke to, anyway.
“I’m just telling them, ‘We have an opportunity to win a national championship here,’” Cavazos said. “You saw what happened last year. They were that close. I know they don’t want to have that feeling anymore, and during these workouts that I’ve been through so far, I don’t want to ever experience that.”
Whether it was his words or those of Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline, Cavazos got his wish for the class of 2020.
Including Fleming, the Buckeyes landed two four-star and two five-star prospects at the receiver position, each ranked in the top 100 recruits nationally.
Iron sharpens iron, as the old adage goes.
“Lejond is right,” Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said. “If you go against Julian or Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson or Jameson Williams –– just like these guys have done in the past –– then you’re only going to get better. There’s a great template for that in our past, and we continue to use that in recruiting.”
There was a time in Cavazos’ recruitment, however, when the script was flipped.
After former head coach Urban Meyer announced his retirement in December 2019 and Day took over, Cavazos decommitted from Ohio State to explore other options.
Then, the receivers in the class of 2020 tried to return him to the fold.
“It was kind of the other way around,” incoming freshman wide receiver Gee Scott said. “We were getting him back on board with us.”
Cavazos re-upped his commitment in April 2020 after finding comfort in Day’s program, citing how it would prepare him off the field.
“Knowing what we have here, like at Real Life Wednesdays — say football wasn’t to work out for me,” Cavazos said. “I know I have a job after that. So it was bigger than football for me.”
Cavazos arrived with 13 other early enrolled freshmen to Ohio State in January, including all four wide receivers. They’ve forgone their final months of high school to get a head start in the Buckeyes’ program with winter workouts and spring practice.
They’ll get their first chance to showcase how much they’ve sharpened each others’ football skills at the Ohio State Spring Game April 11.