Most high school athletes don't fully begin their college recruitment until their junior year of high school.
If they're good enough, they may think about playing in college before then, but communicating with programs and making campus visits normally won't start until their junior year.
Eastern York junior midfielder Cole Witman, however, is not your typical college prospect. He's already verbally committed to the college of his choice — twice. But, he's confident the second time, which came in late September, is his final decision.
Witman recently committed to play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins University, an NCAA Division I powerhouse in Baltimore.
"Johns Hopkins has been my favorite lacrosse school ever since I started playing," Witman said. "It's always been an interest of mine. When I figured out that things weren't going to work well with Virginia (the school he originally committed to), I got a hold of my club coach at Dukes LC, which is in Philadelphia, and he was saying that Johns Hopkins was interested in me. So, I didn't even ask who else was interested in me. That was a big interest of mine."
The 6-foot, 2-inch, 185-pound Witman took a trip to tour the campus and, a day later, he committed to the program and longtime head coach Dave Pietramala.
Johns Hopkins has rich tradition: Johns Hopkins is coming off an average 8-7 year and competes in the Big Ten Conference. In the program's history, the Blue Jays have won nine national titles, have nine runner-up results and 29 final-four appearances. Its most recent national championship came in 2007, while its most recent final four was in 2015.
It was the second commitment Witman gave in two years, with his first coming prior to even playing a second for Eastern York.
In December 2015, Witman had just completed the first half of his freshman year at Eastern, when he thought he had his future decided. Drawing interest from the Virginia, Johns Hopkins and Penn State for lacrosse, Witman wanted to forge his own path after high school.
Despite his father, Jon, playing football for the Nittany Lions and his parents trying to nudge him in that direction, Cole initially chose to head south to Charlottesville. But, wherever he chose, his parents supported him, Witman said.
"I talked to my family and I just really wanted to go my own path and not follow my dad, as in go to Penn State," Witman said. "So, that's the biggest reason I chose Virginia."
At the time, Dom Starsia was the coach of Virginia's lacrosse program, but was let go as the team's head coach following the 2016 season after 24 years.
Forging his own path: Witman wants to create his own path apart from his dad, which is part of the reason why he didn't choose Penn State. While Cole does play for the Golden Knights' football team, by making lacrosse his main priority, that alone has helped create an identity separate from his dad's.
Jon was a standout football player and track star at Eastern before he went on to play at Penn State and then in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played in 85 career games in the NFL over six seasons from 1996-2001.
However, Cole's calling has always been with a lacrosse stick in his hands, which was showcased last season. As a sophomore with the Golden Knights, he registered 46 goals and 27 assists in 21 games, according to MaxPreps.
He helped lead Eastern to a 12-9 overall record, which qualified the team for districts. In the Class 2-A tournament, the Knights finished third and became the first-ever York-Adams League boys' lacrosse team to make the state tournament.
Witman said he's interested in pre-med for his major in college, but isn't sure if that's the route he'll take. He's also unsure what type of scholarship he'll receive, but he did discuss scholarship and financial aid with Pietramala when he made his visit.
Larger role likely at Eastern: Witman will be asked to play an even larger role for Eastern this spring. His commitment to play for JHU will surely garner more attention from opposing defenses.
Witman also said the proximity of Baltimore to York County played a hand in his decision. With the school no more than 70 minutes from where he lives, Witman said his family will have the chance to come to all of his home games.
With his college future set, Witman's sole focus for the next two seasons can be on playing.
"Now I get to just work hard, continue to dream and make it come true," he said.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org