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February 1, 2012
As he stood on the turf of the Alamodome in San Antonio in early January after being named co-MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Dorial Green-Beckham was being peppered with the same recruiting questions he never really felt comfortable answering.
In the middle of it, the 6-6, 220-pound seemingly NFL-ready receiver reached out his big hand toward a hole in the crowd and at his 6-year-old sister Eliza.
"You can come over here," he said.
With that, he continued answering queries about his college intentions, not revealing a hint of where he might go. As it turns out, one of the biggest clues may have been wrapping both of her arms around one of his legs, looking up at him with love.
Green-Beckham announced on Wednesday morning at Hillcrest High in Springfield, Mo., that he is headed to Missouri, a campus roughly two hours from his home.
The proximity, Green-Beckham said, made a difference.
"Just to stay home and have all those guys [family, friends] come out and see me [was big]," he said.
It was the most anticipated announcement of National Signing Day - the day high school football recruits can formally sign a National Letter of Intent, which commits them to a school.
And one that may have the greatest impact. Green-Beckham appears to be that good.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell calls him a rare talent.
"We're talking about a Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson type football player," he said.
One who can excel all over the field.
"He dominates with his body and his strength and he has big hands that snatch the ball out of the air," Farrell said. "He's a natural red-zone threat, he can be a possession guy who can move the chains and make tough catches over the middle and along the sidelines and he has that deep threat ability."
Green-Beckham had an unstoppable senior season, catching 119 passes for 2,233 yards and 24 touchdowns on the way to breaking the national record for receiving yards with 6,447. He won numerous national Player of the Year awards.
Simply put, Green-Beckham isn't your usual high school hot shot. That's been apparent for some time on and off the field.
Recruits can handle the process in any number of ways.
Some declare their intentions early - in fact, some juniors already say they have made up their minds. Others talk openly throughout the process, continually winnowing down a list of schools.
Then there was Green-Beckham. Recruited since his freshman year, the only indication he ever gave of his intentions was a list of five schools he would visit: Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas.
Any speculation on which school was in front was just that - speculation. No one outside of his immediate family had any idea which hat he would grab when he had his nationally televised moment.
Of course, that was likely because of his family situation.
Green-Beckham, along with his younger brother Darnell, moved in with John and Tracy Beckham as foster children when Dorial was 12. It was the final stop of a Blind Side-type childhood that was filled with neglect and abandonment and too many situations that just didn't work out.
He and his brother slowly built a relationship with the Beckhams, who adopted them a few years later.
His dad doubled as his football coach, helping him become the player he is. His mom is thrilled by his exploits on the field, but prouder of him off it.
"To see him when all of these awards is great," she said in San Antonio after he received one of his handful of national Player of the Year awards. "But to see him grow into the man he is today is just so special."
Green-Beckham has never felt comfortable with his celebrity as a high school superstar.
He stopped doing interviews in the weeks leading up to signing day. And while he was always polite and respectful during Army week, it was obvious he struggled with his stature as perhaps the biggest star in a game full of them.
"I'm just from a small town in Missouri," he said repeatedly.
The closeness and comfort he has with the Beckhams was apparent, too. And it undoubtedly played a part in his decision. As was his desire to be closer to Darnell, a high school sophomore who is in remission but is still receiving treatment for Leukemia.
And then there was Eliza.
Any college in the country would have made room for Green-Beckham, but it was obvious on that afternoon in San Antonio, she wasn't going to let anyone take her big brother far away.
Obvious also, that he wasn't really interesting in going very far.