By MaxPreps contributor Mike Dyer
Zeke Pike understands his recruiting journey is really the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that few high school football players are ever able to experience.
Maybe that's why the Dixie Heights (Edgewood, Ky.) junior quarterback said he wasn't completely soured by the day-to-day nationwide hype surrounding his college decision-making process.
That hype ended Wednesday when Pike gave a verbal commitment to play at Auburn.
Pike, who turned 18 on April 8, typically received 20 to 30 phone calls a day from recruiting websites or those curious as to which schools the top prospect might visit or consider. He also received an estimated 50,000 pieces of mail from college programs, according to his father, former NFL player Mark Pike. Mark said the mail takes up nearly his entire office area.
"It's (wasn't) as exciting as it used to be," Zeke said of the constant attention.
Pike, who is rated the nation's No. 30 player overall in the 2012 class by MaxPreps/CBS Sports football recruiting expert Tom Lemming, didn't always answer his phone and he admits the unique experience often got "hectic" at times.
Hectic is an understatement these days, according to Mark, who played college football at Georgia Tech and had a 13-year career with the Buffalo Bills after being drafted in 1986. What Mark went through during his recruiting process in the 1980s doesn't even begin to compare with what Zeke faced in today's highly competitive recruiting landscape.
"I just try to guide him the best I can," said Mark, who retired from the NFL in 1999 and is active in various business ventures in northern Kentucky. "He is pretty smart (in knowing) what he is looking for."
During Dixie Heights' spring break the week of April 18, Zeke and his father were scheduled to visit several colleges programs, including Tennessee, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia and Auburn. Turns out, Auburn was the one that made the best impression.
Mark, 47, said the visits were about connecting with the head coaches and coordinators involved with the programs. While the "big toys" like weight rooms or practice facilities are nice, Mark said he and his son were more interested in speaking with the coaches about specific football plans.
For Zeke, who is 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, the serious recruiting attention started during the spring of 2010 when he first started to receive scholarship offers. Fast forward to April 2011 and Pike said he had at least 40 offers with a significant portion of those being from Bowl Championship Series programs.
Zeke was the first quarterback to commit to the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in early January and he will certainly remain on the national stage with additional national preseason recognition this summer. While Dixie Heights coach Tom Spritzky said the all-star game presents "a great opportunity" for Zeke, the standout quarterback is more concerned about the time he will miss early next year when he's in San Antonio for the game - away from his basketball teammates during the middle of that season.
It's that type of perspective that makes Pike a leader among his teammates. Dixie Heights will participate in a national 7-on-7 tournament in Hoover, Ala., in mid-July. The high school squad hopes to improve its regular-season record after a 6-6 record from the 2010 season. The Colonels' offense is expected to be similar to last season with Pike possibly seeing more time under center.
Mark has advised his son to enjoy his senior year because he will never be able get that back. Mark has told Zeke to play the game the way he knows how and not worry about what people might say about him.
Zeke, whose first name is of Biblical origin, said his father, a former linebacker, has had a "big impact" on his life.
"He's been on the biggest stages of stages," Zeke said.
What makes college programs salivate over Pike is his size, arm strength and his ability to stand in the pocket. He also has strong field vision. Pike, who threw for 2,135 yards and 18 touchdowns last season for the Colonels, wants to continue to improve upon his mechanics going into his senior year.
Lemming said he was impressed with Pike's quick feet, his arm strength and his poise. Pike also rushed for 947 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
"Zeke is a guy that can fit into any system," said Lemming.
Lemming said Pike is a "no-brainer" for college programs.
"He's very confident," Lemming said.
Pike would like to major in education and social work with thoughts of coaching at the high school or college level. He said he wants to make an impact in people's lives.
"Zeke has a great heart," Mark said. "He loves helping people."
Spritzky said in an "ideal world" Pike would make a college decision before the start of the football season this August.
Mark said a decision before the season would be convenient for Zeke and avoid any unnecessary distractions, so that problem is taken care of now. Mark said Zeke has persevered in keeping his focus on what really matters during the recruiting process.
"I'm proud of him," Mark said. "He's handled it well."
National Football Editor Stephen Spiewak contributed to this report. Photo by Wayne Litmer.