Anthony Solomon was about 4 years old the first time he suited up for a football game. The now-coveted linebacker grew up in the shadow of Miami, so his first team, fittingly, was the Pasadena Lakes Hurricanes.
Usually these youth football games were on Saturdays, so Solomon didn’t spend as much time watching the Hurricanes in Miami Gardens, Fla., as he would’ve always liked. Kaleith Solomon, the prospect’s mother, is a former Hurricane herself. The outside linebacker even considers former Miami quarterback Ryan Collins an uncle. The Hurricanes have been a part of Solomon’s life as long as he can remember.
This isn’t why he’s decided to go to Miami, though. The Hurricanes feel familiar to the rising senior from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for different reasons.
“The type of program that coach Mark Richt is building, he felt that it would be a natural transition for him,” Kaleith Solomon told DieHards. “Both Coach Richt and [St. Thomas Aquinas coach Roger] Harriott have similar philosophies.”
Last Wednesday, Solomon brought a somewhat surprisingly early end to his recruitment. The 4-star outside linebacker, who once publicly declared Michigan the favorite in his recruitment, verbally committed to Miami less than two weeks before a scheduled official visit with the Wolverines.
@CoachHarriott @MarkRicht @Coach_Sh1ne @CoachMannyDiaz @TwanRussell @SlyJohnson3 @GuerbyMertil @LocksNoKeys @AndrewIvins @DavidFurones_ @HamiltonESPN @therealkwat @DemetricDWarren pic.twitter.com/0qPys9ffLt
— Anthony Solomon 11™️ (@Solomon_STA) April 4, 2018
There wasn’t one specific thing to change for the Hurricanes during recent months. Miami climbed even with Michigan after Solomon visited Coral Gables twice in January and February. When Solomon returned for a junior day event March 24, the Hurricanes made the final push they needed to sew up a commitment.
Solomon went public with his pledge less than two weeks after his latest visit and informed defensive coordinator Manny Diaz of his decision on April 3.
“It kind of came over time,” Solomon told DieHards after he announced his commitment. “I don’t really know how to explain it, but over time it just accumulated up to me making the decision.”
🤟Rockstar in Miami 🤟 🦁 pic.twitter.com/ra6WqfnNQz
— Anthony Solomon 11™️ (@Solomon_STA) March 26, 2018
Even Solomon’s mother didn’t always think a commitment to Miami was inevitable. Solomon didn’t worry much about the idea of playing for his childhood team and his mother’s alma mater. He liked the way coach Jim Harbaugh runs the Michigan program and liked the idea of getting a good education in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines pitched Solomon on developing to play their viper position, the linebacker-safety spot most famously played by former All-American Jabrill Peppers.
But the more Solomon visited the Hurricanes, the more he saw Miami’s program offered many of the same things. Solomon and his family fell in love with Richt. Solomon’s mother eventually realized her son would follow in her footsteps.
“I did,” Kaleith Solomon said, “once I realized the type of person Coach Richt was.”
The next — and final — step was to figure out what school would be best for Solomon as a football player. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound athlete ranks No. 12 at his position in the 247Sports composite rankings. He’s played all three linebacker spots for the Raiders. He’s even already accepted an invitation to the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game.
Solomon and his family sat down and looked at the depth charts for the schools he considered. The Wolverines have some clear long-term options and wouldn’t allow Solomon the same sort of positional flexibility as Miami.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, have a bit cloudier outlook at linebacker — just look at the recruiting priorities in the Class of 2019. Miami expects to start three junior linebackers in 2018. At least two of those seem at least somewhat likely to enter the 2019 NFL Draft, including weakside linebacker Michael Pinckney, and his projected backup will be a redshirt senior in the fall.
Solomon knows he’s probably not big enough to be a middle linebacker next level, but few assistant coaches get more out of undersized linebackers than Diaz. If Pinckney heads to the NFL, Solomon will get a chance to start from Day 1. If Pinckney returns, Solomon will have an excellent mentor to learn from for a year.
“I sometimes watch his highlights when I can to see how he works and see what he does,” Solomon said. “I feel like I can match him when I go there. I’ll try to continue what he does.”
Solomon isn’t sure yet whether he’ll take any visits elsewhere. The linebacker originally planned to visit Michigan this weekend, but won’t make it because of a family emergency. The Wolverines are still pushing, though, as are Florida, Ohio State and Penn State. Clemson has also been a factor at times.
A seemingly obvious reason for Solomon to shun out-of-state suitors is the easy opportunity for his parents to go watch him play near home for his mother’s alma mater. Kaleith Solomon never really pushed him. The Miami alumna now works for an airline. Getting to her son’s games was never going to be a significant challenge. Solomon picked the Hurricanes for his own reasons.
“I didn’t want to have anything to do with Anthony’s decision,” Kaleith Solomon said. “Anywhere Anthony went, I would’ve been at all his games anyway.”