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August 2, 2009Blake Bortles began his summer with one favorite in mind and nothing he saw changed his opinion.
The 6-foot-4 quarterback from Oviedo visited schools like Clemson, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee, but he says none of them came close to UCF. He ended his recruitment Saturday by officially committing to the Knights.
"I went on like a two-week trip going to a bunch of camps, but right before I left me and my parents went over to UCF and got a tour," Bortles said. "I live five minutes away, but that was the first time I had actually ever seen the whole campus and everything. It was unbelievable. I told my mom, 'If we weren't going on this trip I'd commit right now,' but we had already paid for everything."
Bortles' summer travels also took him to Kansas State and Western Kentucky.
"Everywhere we went to it was like they've got this, but UCF has this," Bortles said. "I was always comparing it to UCF. I'd say, UCF has got this and UCF is so much better. That's how it pretty much went along. I would just walk on their campus on the tour and see all this stuff and I'd say this stuff is cool you know, but in the back of my head I'd think UCF has got this and UCF has got that. I would walk into camp and I'd feel like I was going to camp.
"It's just a different environment at UCF. You walk on campus and man, it's a cool feeling. At least that's how it is for me. It's a cool feeling walking on campus. We've been all over the place and the whole time I was always thinking about UCF and committing to UCF. It's just the feeling you get at UCF."
Bortles made his final stop this past week at the FBU Top Gun Camp in Paisley, Fla.
"I got back home and UCF just seems like that's where I need to be," Bortles said. "Last night (Friday) my parents and I went out to dinner and they asked, 'What do you want to do?' I said, 'I want to go to UCF.' UCF has always been close to my heart and that's where I want to be. We got up this morning, went to lunch, then went to Sports FanAttaic in the mall and got some t-shirts, license plates and glasses. We got the apparel down. They were real happy about it."
He first informed his head coach at Oviedo, Wes Allen, then he placed a phone call to UCF recruiting coordinator Geoff Collins and later he spoke with head coach George O'Leary.
"I let Coach Allen know what was going on and he was all pumped up about it," Bortles said. "I then called Coach Collins and told him. He was excited. He was talking about how it's been a good week. They got a good corner from Mount Dora on Thursday (Jordan Ozerities) and he said things were rolling. They were real happy to have me and I told him that I was happy to be coming to UCF and be a Knight.
"Coach O'Leary was just congratulating me. It's just unbelievable how good they were recruiting me. I was talking to Coach Collins all the time and me and my parents had a meeting with Coach O'Leary that lasted 20 or 30 minutes. I was just in constant contact with them. That really helped to push along this decision. My parents liked the coaching staff. They love Coach O'Leary and Coach Collins. It feels good."
As the first quarterback UCF offered in this recruiting class, the Knights made it clear from day one that Bortles was their top target. He passed for 2,472 yards as a junior at Oviedo High School, which set a new Seminole Athletic Conference record, while throwing for 23 touchdowns.
"They told me a while back I was their top guy on their board," Bortles said. "That's what Coach Collins said when I called him. He said, 'We got our top cornerback and our top quarterback this week. He was real jazzed about it."
He also had a good relationship with his future position coach and coordinator, Charlie Taaffe.
"(Taaffe) came to school after they offered, probably around April, and I went over to UCF to meet with him for 15 or 20 minutes," Bortles said. "We've talked on the phone. I look forward to playing for him as my quarterback coach."
Bortles stopped by UCF several times during spring practice, but he started to feel UCF would be the place after his most extensive visit in early June.
"They showed me the whole nine yards," Bortles said. "We saw everything. It was cool riding around on the golf cart. There were kids playing intramural football that I knew. It's cool to have kids that I went to high school with or I knew around central Florida going to UCF. That's awesome. For the people that I love that are close, to be able to drive 10 minutes to watch me play is great too."
Bortles said he's already developed a friendship with fellow commitments Cornelius Whitehead and Cody Ralston. On the current team, he said he's very familiar with quarterback transfer Brett Hodges, who played at nearby Winter Springs, and he's friends with Billy Giovanetti and Nick Giovanetti.
"My left tackle on my football team is cousins with the Giovanetti brothers," Bortles said. "I would always say hey to them, but I had never really talked to them about UCF. His parents had a party, they had some people over not too long ago and they were over there. I sat down with them and talked to them about how they liked it. They said it was great. It's a great place to be."
UCF's No. 1 quarterback entering preseason camp is Rob Calabrese, who would be a junior in 2010.
"I know Calabrese is a good quarterback and they've got Hodges coming in (this year)," Bortles said. "I watched Hodges play through his high school career and he's a good quarterback. They've got good kids at the position right now. I'm just hoping to come in and do what I can. Just do whatever I can to make the team better."
As for the FBU Top Gun Camp, Bortles said he learned a lot.
"That's definitely a huge instructional camp," he said. "They've got all kinds of ex-NFL players and coaches there. It was just unbelievable. We stayed in a cabin at the place. All the top prospects in the country were there it was unbelievable to hang out with those guys, just to see how humble they are. Even though they're in the spotlight and all that, they're normal kids. It was a cool experience to hang out with them."
Bortles, who is considering majoring in either sports management or communications, says his commitment is solid.
"I'm done. It's UCF all the way now," he said. "It's just a great feeling to have. Not many kids get to sit down and have the conversation about where am I going to play college football. That's a rare experience. It's awesome to be able to have this opportunity to make a decision. It wasn't much of a decision. I was thinking about UCF the whole time. It feels real good that I'm going to be a Knight."
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