out of Barbe Alfred M. High School in Lake Charles, LA decided to give his verbal commitment to Texas Tech
this afternoon. Celestine, who was also being recruited hard by Florida
and Kansas State
, was offered by the Red Raiders after attending a minicamp in Lubbock two weekends ago.
RaiderPower.com caught up with Celestine's track coach and unofficial guardian Johnny Giordano to get the scoop on his commitment.
"We have kind of a unique situation in that I'm his unofficial guardian," Giordano explained. "I've been his track since he was young, and I've had him since he was 9 years old. I'm mostly his track coach; I don't get too involved in the football stuff, but since I know the ropes for recruiting, I've been helping him with this whole process."
Texas Tech has been at the top of Celestine's list for a while, so Giordano and he decided to be sure that the Red Raider coaches didn't overlook him.
"We've been talking about Tech for at least three years. I played WR for Louisiana Tech in college, and I told him that if I was a receiver coming out of high school now, there's no place I can think of that I would rather go than to Texas Tech. It's just a great program for wide receivers.
"E.J. decided he was interested in Tech, so I sent in his highlight video and followed it up with a phone call to the Tech coaches. Once they saw the highlight video, they were very impressed and really wanted to see him in person. So we flew out to Lubbock for the minicamp. I'd been talking to Texas Tech's coaches up to that point, but once we got here, I didn't say much. I just let E.J.'s performance speak for itself."
Early in the recruiting process, Celestine didn't receive as much attention as he had hoped for, but things have been picking up recently as he's been able to travel and show coaches what he can do.
"I think Ernest, or E.J. as he likes to be called, has flown under the radar a little bit because he hasn't been able to go to as many camps and combines as some of the other kids," Giordano explained. "This year, he got invited to the Nike combine, but it was during track season and he had a pulled groin, so he couldn't make it. It's definitely not a lack of talent that's the reason he hasn't been more highly recruited. I think it's more just a matter of people seeing him. Honestly, I think that there are only 4 or 5 guys in the whole state of Louisiana who are being recruited right now who are as good as him. I think he's the best wide receiver in the state.
"He has seven offers on the table (including Southern Miss, Tulsa, Tulane, and Louisiana Tech) and is hearing from Florida and Kansas State a lot. We actually just got back from Florida, where he went to a camp. Urban Meyer was very impressed with him and said that he's plenty good enough to play in the SEC or anywhere else that he wants to go."
Obviously Celestine made quite an impression on the Red Raider coaches, who felt that he was definitely Big 12 caliber talent. Giordano says that it was no secret that they were excited about this little known prospect.
"I was standing about five feet away from Coach Leach at the minicamp, and I don't think he could have been any more excited about a kid. Since Tech couldn't offer while we were on campus because of NCAA rules, we called him after we left the camp, and Coach Leach himself officially offered E.J. E.J. was very impressed with that and knew what a compliment that was to have the head coach so excited about him."
During his visit, E.J. showed off his speed and athleticism, clocking a legit 4.43-40 on grass.
Giordano was blown away with his performance as well. "He ran a 6.47 in the L-shuttle, which is unbelievable for a kid his age. When we were at Florida last week, there wasn't anybody there who ran that fast. He also ran a 4.0 in the pro shuttle and had a 33.7" vertical jump. He also has a standing long jump of 9'8".
"He just had an unbelievable performance at the camp. He caught every pass they threw to him, and he took advantage of his chance to shine."
A few other factors came into play during their visit to Lubbock as well. Basketball star Martin Zeno and Celestine are friends and were able to spend some time together during the visit.
"Martin Zeno is from our area, and we've talked to him several times over the years. He and E.J. have known each other for about five years, and Martin has had nothing but good things to say about Texas Tech and the coaching staff there. He told E.J. that the coaches care about you and how you do in the classroom and off the field at Texas Tech."
In addition, E.J. felt right at home in the laid-back, welcoming atmosphere of Lubbock.
"While we were there, we went to a few different restaurants, and I don't think I've ever been around nicer people," Giordano enthused. "Nobody knew why he was there, but everybody was very friendly to him, and he really liked that. Everybody seemed to really support Texas Tech, which is the way it should be."
In the end, E.J. decided to give his verbal commitment to the Red Raiders because he felt at home with the coaches, players, and staff.
"I think it really came down to the camaraderie and the relationship he felt like he had with the coaches. He was very comfortable there and said that he just felt like this is where he needed to be. He said that it felt like the football team was a family.
"The coaches took a personal interest in him and were very complimentary to him, which made him feel really good. He knows that he's wanted at Tech and that they're very excited to have him there.
"E.J. feels like he has an opportunity to come in and compete for playing time early, which is one of the reasons I think he chose Texas Tech."
Celestine also got to see All-American wide receiver Michael Crabtree in action during his visit, an added bonus to his great experience.
"While he was at the minicamp, he went over to one of the other fields and watched Crabtree and some of the other receivers working out," Giordano said. "He was really impressed with how hard they were working."
Despite playing tail back in high school, the Red Raiders are recruiting Celestine as a wide receiver and athlete.
"The coaches used him as a receiver and he even played defensive back a little bit at the camp. They talked with him about being a kick returner and receiver and maybe getting some touches here and there on an end around, but he doesn't have the size to play every snap as a running back in college."
And although Celestine promises to be an outstanding athlete at the collegiate level, Coach Giordano explains that his personal characteristics are what really set up apart.
"E.J. is a great kid. He has more of a Barry Sander type of demeanor in that he is more to himself and very quite. He's a very team-oriented person and is very popular at school. He virtually never says a word or showboats at all. After he scores, he just hands the ball back to the ref, so he's a little uncommon in that way."
Ernest Celestine out of Barbe Alfred M. High School in Lake Charles, LA decided to give his verbal commitment to Texas Tech this afternoon. Celestine was offered by the Red Raiders after a stellar performance at a minicamp in Lubbock two weekends ago. RaiderPower.com caught up with Celestine's track coach and unofficial guardian Johnny Giordano to get the scoop on his commitment.
Ernest (E.J.) Celestine gave his verbal pledge to become a Red Raider this afternoon.