Tom Manning stared at Caleb Chandler for a few seconds to register what he’d just heard.
The four-star offensive guard from Jefferson, Ga., had just told Manning that he was committing to Iowa State during a visit over the weekend. The No. 21 offensive guard in the country, according to Scout.com, had fallen in love with Ames.
Chandler couldn’t have anticipated what came next.
“He jumped up and hit me in the face with his shoulder,” Chandler said about the moment with Manning in a phone interview on Monday. “But we hugged it out. Coach (Matt) Campbell and Coach (Bryan) Gasser came in there and they hugged me and we all had a group hug. My head coach came in there and was like, ‘What I miss?’ It was like, ‘Caleb wants to be a Cyclone.’ He got excited and it was great.”
The 6-foot-5-inch, 300 pound, prospect holds offers from Florida, Missouri, Louisville, Virginia Tech and a host of others, but something about Iowa State was different to him. The coaches, the players and the campus made this place 980 miles away from Jefferson feel like home.
It didn’t take him long to know this was the place for him.
“It was right after I talked to Coach and got to my hotel before I went to bed that night. I just sat there and I was like, ‘This place, I’ve got this feeling that I’ve never got and I’ve been to a ton of other schools and I’ve never got this feeling I have now,’” Chandler said. “Having Zeb (Noland) along beside me, playing underneath Coach Manning and Coach Campbell and for Iowa State University, I knew that night that I wanted to. The coaching staff didn’t think I was going to for a while like everyone else did but I knew that I could give them a great Father’s Day present and go with my heart and I felt like Ames was the place for me.”
It didn’t hurt that a plethora of players were there to offer advice based on their own experiences.
Noland, a true freshman quarterback and a native of Watkinsville, Ga., which is just 15 or so minutes from Jefferson, connected especially well with Chandler.
“He was in a spot where I was yesterday. I didn’t really know anything about Iowa or the campus and he told me how he fell in love with the place,” Chandler said. “I saw everything that he said and the coaching staff, players, the whole community is awesome. He fell in love up there and I loved it as well.”
He was quickly added to the group message composed of the program’s commits. He’s gotten the chance to chat with Libertyville, Ill., offensive tackle Tyler Jost and Waterloo West quarterback Devon Moore.
He’s even jumped in on the recruiting efforts and is lobbying to get four-star defensive end MJ Webb, a Madison, Ga., native, up to Ames for a visit.
He’ll only take one official visit in the fall — and that’s to Iowa State.
“The town reminds me of my hometown,” Chandler said. “It felt like home being up there.”