Randy Holtz put his thumbs behind the big, white letters on his sweatshirt and pushed the word “Indiana” outward, emphasizing his college of choice to the dozens of teammates, coaches and fellow Snider students at Wednesday's national signing day event in the school's cafeteria.
Holtz signed his letter of intent to play for the Hoosiers at the event, just a day after announcing his commitment to be the 17th member of the IU recruiting class. The 6-foot-6, 342-pound offensive lineman made his decision after visiting Bloomington over the weekend.
For Holtz, the concept of the team as a family, which Indiana coach Tom Allen has preached loudly in his three seasons at the helm, mirrored the experience he'd enjoyed at Snider.
“The relationship I've developed with my teammates over the last four years is really nice,” Holtz said. “That's how I feel the players at IU feel about each other. It just feels home when I go there.”
Holtz, who won the Mr. Football Position Award for offensive linemen and is one of six finalists for the overall Mr. Football award to be presented Friday, chose Indiana over offers from Purdue, Boston College, Minnesota and West Virginia, among others.
Holtz, 17, said the Hoosiers valued his versatility; he is capable of playing tackle or guard and therefore could be in position for some early playing time as a jack-of-all-trades lineman.
Signing with the Hoosiers is the culmination of Holtz's long-held goal of playing in the Big Ten. After committing, he posted a photo on Twitter of himself as a baby holding a football with an IU logo on it. The photo caption read “guess it was meant to be.”
“I always wanted to play in the Big Ten ever since I started playing football,” said Holtz, the 23rd-ranked recruit in Indiana, per 247sports.com. “Now that I'm actually here and I say that I can do it, it means a lot.”
Holtz was joined at the signing table by his Panther teammate, Gianini Belizaire, a 6-1, 293-pound defensive lineman who signed to play for the Southern Illinois Salukis, a FCS (formerly Division I-AA) team in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Belizaire is a two-time All-SAC performer and earned Class 6A Senior All-State honors this year. He recorded 32 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in his final two seasons with the Panthers.
“After my official visit, it felt like I would fit right in,” said Belizaire, who verbally committed Dec. 12. “(Southern Illinois) is devoted to making me a better young man on and off the field. They help you a lot academically, which I look at a lot.”
“I'm going to try to hit the ground running,” he added. “I'm going to try to be a starter right off the bat. That's always my goal.”
Other area signees include:
Luke Wiginton: The three-star offensive-line recruit from Bishop Dwenger will join Holtz at Indiana. The 6-5, 275-pound Wiginton is the 10th-ranked recruit in the state, per 247sports.com. He committed to the Hoosiers in April.
“It's going to be nice having an old face there,” Holtz said of playing in Bloomington with Wiginton. “Having somebody I can go to if I need to talk to somebody because he came from the same area.”
Ryan Brandt: Angola's three-star safety submitted his letter of intent to Purdue, joining a class that ranks 30th in the nation. The 6-1, 202-pound Brandt is the No. 18 recruit in the state and was a member of The Journal Gazette's All-Northeast Indiana First Team.
Griffin Little: The 6-3, 230-pound Homestead tight end signed with Bowling Green after helping the Spartans to 11 straight wins as a senior. He is the 22nd-ranked recruit in the state.
Cam Rogers: The Homestead linebacker will join his teammate, Little, in the MAC after signing with Miami (Ohio). The 6-1, 210-pounder committed to the RedHawks in February and is the No. 34 player in Indiana.
Brandon Pruitt: He led West Noble to an 18-4 record over the last two seasons, one of the best stretches in school history. Pruitt signed with Navy, where he will likely play linebacker.
“I just thought that after college and after football, I wanted to serve my country and that's, ultimately, what made my decision,” Pruitt told the Goshen News.
Ray Vollmer: A member of The Journal Gazette's All-Northeast Indiana first team at defensive back, Vollmer signed with Indiana State after totaling 25 tackles and three interceptions for Carroll this season.