ORLANDO, Fla. — Anthony Solomon had been committed to the University of Miami’s football team for more than eight months when he made the decision last month to go in a different direction.
And for the 6-foot, 200-pound outside linebacker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., deep in the heart of south Florida, where Miami lives in folklore, it was a difficult one.
“The ‘U’ is what everybody talks about, really,” said Solomon, a four-star recruit who currently ranks No. 193 in the 2018 recruiting class. “Making that decision was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I’m leaving my family. I’m leaving a lot of friends.
“But all in all, I had to do what’s best for me.”
Solomon spoke to MLive on Tuesday at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, a massive space within the confines of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. He is one of more than 100 high school players invited to play in Thursday’s Under-Armour All-America Game (6 p.m., ESPN2).
So, what lured the St. Thomas Aquinas star to Ann Arbor? The coaching staff, of course, a group that included head coach Jim Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Don Brown and linebackers coach Al Washington, but the reach was far wider than that, he says.
“I stayed in contact with Michigan throughout my recruiting process,” Solomon said. “What stood out was the alumni base. A lot of alumni really come back and help people at Michigan. It’s a really big family. It reminds me of St. Thomas, because we’re all brothers, really.”
Solomon, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds and shuttle in 4.24 seconds, had scholarship offers from more than three dozen schools, a who’s who list that included Alabama and Clemson. Yet Miami offered him the opportunity to stay home and play major college football.
That was until Dec. 16, less than a week before the 2018 early signing period was set to begin. Solomon took to Twitter to announce that he was changing his commitment from the Hurricanes to Michigan. On Twitter, he wrote, in part: “In Life the only constant is change and with that thought and a heavy heart I announce to the university of Miami that it is in my best interest to De-commit from the Hurricanes.”
Solomon’s announcement came days after Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, who was responsible for recruiting Solomon, left to take the head coaching job at Temple. Diaz has since returned to Miami as the head coach, after Mark Richt abruptly announced his retirement on Monday.
Asked if Diaz’s departure had anything to do with his flip, Solomon said no. Rather, Michigan had been stepping up its effort to recruit him in recent months (he says he took five or six visits to Ann Arbor), culminating in an official visit on Dec. 14. Two days later, he made his announcement.
“I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision,” Solomon said. “I had to follow my gut on this decision.”
Solomon feels as though he’ll fit in Brown’s heavy man-press defensive scheme, which is already deployed at St. Thomas Aquinas. As a senior in 2018, the outside linebacker recorded 71 tackles (eight for a loss) and had four sacks.
When he enrolls at Michigan over the summer, Solomon said he’ll begin right away at viper, a hybrid linebacker-safety position that emphasizes speed. And that’s just how he likes it.
“I bring a different mindset,” Solomon said. “I play strong and fast. Covering is my best asset. Covering receivers, covering running backs out of the backfield — that’s what I’m good for. That’s what I’m known for.”
Above all else, Solomon said he felt at home at Michigan and with the coaching staff. He cited a family atmosphere, a trait he values dearly, and says the coaches treated him with maturity and professionalism.
Brown, especially, who Solomon says he’s grown close to.
“We can talk about not just football, but life, really,” said Solomon, who finished his day on Tuesday by signing a football for a young boy.
“My dad says, ‘You can wrap with everybody, but don’t wrap up with everybody.’ You can speak to everybody, but don’t have your business — don’t have your personal life — with everybody. Coach Brown is someone I can wrap up with.”