David Eldridge couldn’t wait any longer.
The Kettle Run junior knew for about three weeks that he wanted to play football for the University of Virginia. Finally, Thursday night, he made a verbal commitment to the Cavaliers, who offered Eldridge a scholarship four months ago
“I felt as the days were going by there was no need to keep holding out,” said Eldridge, who received offers from eight other NCAA Division I programs. “I didn’t want to wait.”
So he informed Virginia wide receivers coach Marques Hagans of the decision via direct message on Twitter and then called head coach Mike London.
“We had a good conversation and he welcomed me to the family,” Eldridge said of London. “It’s an up-and-coming football program … and I can represent my state.”
Former Virginia assistant coach Anthony Poindexter began recruiting Eldridge before taking a job with Connecticut. Then Virginia defensive line coach Jappy Oliver picked up the recruiting along with Hagans.
“They did a really good job recruiting him and making it known they wanted him,” Cougars coach Jeff Lloyd said. “Virginia and Wake Forest were the strongest” about showing interest.
“He has the potential, if he works hard, to have a very good career there,” Lloyd said.
A speedy wide receiver,
Eldridge chose Virginia over Wake Forrest, Boston College, UNC-Charlotte, Connecticut, East Carolina, Illinois, Liberty and Old Dominion. The Cavaliers offered him a scholarship Jan. 17 before all those other teams.
“My first offer, so they had an advantage with that,” he said. “To have the opportunity to play in the ACC, one of the best conferences in the country, is a great blessing. I’m thankful.”
A 6-foot-1, 170-pound receiver, Eldridge runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash and is a Rivals.com three star recruit. While fast, he lacks size and expects to use a redshirt his freshman season at Virginia.
“That will benefit me academically and strength-wise,” Eldridge said. “And learning the playbook and just adjusting to college life.”
The Cavaliers finished last season with a 2-10 record after going 0-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2012, they went 4-8 (2-6 ACC).
Virginia averaged only 211.8 passing yards per game in 2013 and no Cavalier reached the 400 receiving yards mark. Tight end Jake McGee led them with 43 catches and 395 receiving yards.
“Virginia hasn’t really had a big time receiver in a while,” Lloyd said. “They’ve struggled in their passing game the past couple seasons. I definitely think [Eldridge] will help with that in the future.
“He has excellent hands … and he runs well,” Lloyd said. “He’s tall, and that’s what they’re looking for.”
Off the field, Eldridge plans to study business management. In fact, he largely based his decision to attend Virginia on academics.
“Seventy percent” of the decision, Eldridge said. “You don’t play football your whole life and … it’s one of the best schools academically in the country.”
He also chose Virginia because of its location about only 65 miles away from his Warrenton home.
“I love the campus,” he said. “I can see my family [easily] and friends can come see me play.”
Eldridge’s Kettle Run teammate, Abu Kai Kai, also recently made a verbal commitment to play D-I football. The junior defensive end will play for Eastern Carolina University.
“Now that we both committed, a lot of pressure is off our backs,” Eldridge said. “We can focus on helping our team out and being leaders and trying to get a state championship” during the 2014 season.
Eldridge and Kai Kai led Kettle Run to a 7-5 record last season, which ended with a loss in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A East Region tournament to James Monroe, 6-3. The Cougars also lost to James Monroe in the both the 2012 and 2011 state semifinals.
Last season, Eldridge scored a team-high 15 touchdowns for the Cougars and finished with 1,463 total yards as a receiver, rusher, defensive back, kick returner and punt returner.
“He was the one kid that we had last year that touched the football and could score at any point,” Lloyd said.
Eldridge had 654 yards and nine touchdowns on 31 receptions, and 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. On special teams, he had 293 yards and a touchdown on 17 punt returns, and 371 yards and three touchdowns on 10 kickoff returns. He added two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.