Liberty High lineman R.J. Proctor used many resources to research the four colleges that offered him football scholarships.
David Eldridge was one of those resources.
A rival Kettle Run receiver, Eldridge helped convince Proctor to choose the University of Virginia as his future destination.
Proctor, a Liberty rising senior, made a verbal commitment to play for the Cavaliers on Friday, little more than three weeks after Eldridge committed
to the same school.
"That’s my one dream: Make it to college," Proctor said. "I made it. All this time working my butt off. I finally have this weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Proctor and Eldridge have been friends since fifth grade. So Proctor recently reached out to the Kettle Run rising senior and asked, What's so great about U.Va.?
Eldridge responded via Twitter.
"He sent about six messages," Proctor said.
"I just told him that it's a great university,” Eldridge said. "The football program is on the rise and about to do big things, and a degree from Virginia can set him for life."
Not that Proctor needed much convincing. The left tackle said he seriously considered all the other colleges that offered him scholarships – Old Dominion, James Madison and Virginia Military – but U.Va. quickly rose to the top of his wish list. Playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference gave the Cavaliers a lot of appeal.
“That basically put them ahead,” he said.
Proctor also liked Virginia’s locale near his home in Bealeton, the Cavaliers’ coaches and the school’s academic reputation.
It took a while for Virginia to offer Proctor a scholarship, though. U.Va. coaches first showed interest in him when they saw him at a camp as a sophomore.
"From there it was very slow," Proctor said of the recruiting process.
Cavaliers offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild stayed in touch with Liberty coach Sean Finnerty, as did other college coaches, but Proctor went without a scholarship offer for months.
"There was a lot of interest, but nobody made a move," Proctor said.
Old Dominion got the ball rolling in early April when it offered him a scholarship.
"From there it started picking up,” Proctor said. “In the school there was a college [recruiter] almost every single day to check me out."
Virginia coaches visited Proctor a couple times at Liberty, but advised him to showcase his skills at a camp in Charlottesville, he said. U.Va. coaches told him they would offer him a scholarship if he performed well there, Proctor said.
Then, however, Cavaliers offensive line coach Scott Wachenheim watched Proctor play during a Liberty spring practice in May. Soon after, Wachenheim offered a scholarship, Proctor said, coincidently the same day Eldridge committed to the Cavaliers – May 29.
A lot of college recruiters wanted to see Proctor in person before offering scholarships, Finnerty said.
Maryland, for example, wanted to bring him to College Park because “on his junior film, he's just a 15-year-old kid,” Finnerty said. “Now he's 16 and 40 pounds bigger and stronger. He’s a completely different person.”
Proctor now stands 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, and he recently broke a Liberty weight room record by squatting 545 pounds (and later 580). He didn’t always have a strong lower body, though.
“Freshman year, I didn’t have the base I needed,” Proctor said. "I was never a good squatter. ... I’ve been working and working and working on it.
“I was always good [in the] upper body, but it’s about lower body,” he said. “You need to push defenders five, seven yards back to lead the way for the running backs.”
Proctor is a two-year starter as Liberty’s left tackle, but he could change positions in college. Finnerty said it’s likely Proctor would move to guard.
“I’m undersized as a tackle, but they don’t measure heart,” Proctor said. “But I wouldn’t have a problem changing. … As long I’m in the trenches, I’m good.”
“Being so young,” Finnerty said, “he could get a couple inches taller and move back outside to tackle. … They like his aggressiveness. They like his feet.”
Other schools showing interest in Proctor were Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Central Connecticut, Maryland and Duke. Finnerty said the latter two teams would have likely offered scholarships had Proctor not committed to Virginia.
“He didn’t want to wait that long,” Finnerty said. “U.Va. is probably going to get a couple more commitments from offensive linemen after camps this weekend. So it made sense to go ahead and commit.”
Proctor made the all-Conference 22 first team this past season and was named the offensive lineman MVP at the 2013 College Prep World camp.
Finnerty said a Duke coach told him “there was a good chance he's going to regret not offering” Proctor a scholarship earlier this year.