Wednesday, high school football star Mario Edwards plans to end the recruiting drama — and the deluge of mail to his Texas home — when he announces the college of his choice on National Signing Day.
The star at Billy Ryan High in Denton, Texas, has made a verbal commitment to Florida State.
But the letters from interested schools kept coming to the young man who is regarded as the top recruit in the country.
ESPN The Magazine decided to illustrate how much interest he generated.
Deputy Photo Editor Jim Surber wanted to shoot some still life recruitment letters to include in the overall Recruiting Issue (currently on newsstands).
That all changed when Mag writer Zach Schonbrun, who was covering the Under Amour All-America Game in Orlando, Fla., last month, discovered that Edwards was in possession of four trash bags filled with such letters.
The cover of the new recruiting issue of ESPN The Magazine
After Edwards and his father, Mario Edwards Sr. — who played defensive back at Florida State and in the NFL — agreed to sit for a shoot in Texas, the Mag decided to have a little more fun.
“We thought it would be fun to shoot [Mario Jr.] either in one of the bags with his letters, or buried in the letters,” said The Mag’s Director of Photography Karen Frank.
“We also did a shot of him pouring out the letters from one garbage bag, and a shot of just a pile of the letters on their own.”
While on location at Ryan High, photographer Jeff Wilson improvised in order to stay true to the initial “buried in the sand” conceit.
In order to show the composition of Edwards’ head popping out, illustrating the overwhelming decision the player faced, Wilson came up with this idea: “I basically just made a platform out of foam core and gaffers tape with a cutout for his head. The platform had 2-inch walls around the sides to keep the letters from falling off and it was split down the middle to make it easier for Mario to get into. It was suspended on light stands and lowered over his head.”
The results you see above; the “buried in the sand” photo served as the main art on the gateway page (page 55) to the recruiting content.
ESPNU’s National Signing Day Special (9 a.m. – 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday) will have all the news and analysis on recruiting’s biggest day. It will also be on ESPN3.com and WatchESPN.
Many of the nation’s top prospects, including Dorial Green-Beckham (No. 3), Andrus Peat (No. 9) and Eddie Goldman (No. 10), will make their decisions on ESPNU. Shawn Murphy, ESPNU producer, gave Front Row insight into those coverage plans Tuesday morning.
There will also be reporters stationed at campuses across the country. Join former Miami coach Randy Shannon and analysts Tom Luginbill, Craig Haubert, Corey Long, Jamie Newberg and Mark Schlabach to break it all down.
Check out this video to learn more about Mario Edwards Jr.