When Shawn Curtis unveiled his college choice Tuesday at the Orlando Bright House Networks studios, you could sense the relief in his demeanor.
The recruiting process had begun to weigh on the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Orlando Olympia offensive lineman, and he was ready to get the news off his chest.
"A little more at ease, now. I can sleep a lot easier at night," Curtis said. "It was stressful at times, but I enjoyed it."
Curtis, the No. 20 player in the Sentinel's 2013 Central Florida Super60, started his recruiting visits midway through the season and he took his five official trips on nearly consecutive weekends. Along with Iowa State, Curtis also visited Mississippi State, Syracuse, Virginia and Wake Forest.
He said he enjoyed his visits and there were things he liked about each school, but in the end, Iowa State was the place that made him feel most at home.
"I feel like I'm going to fit in great up there. It's truly the closest family I've seen and I can't wait to be part of it," Curtis said. "I love the coaching staff up there. The players are very close. We got along really well. It was just an all-around great visit. I talk to them all the time. It was great up there."
Some other Central Florida players "up there" breathe a bit of familiarity into the surroundings in Ames, Iowa, where Curtis will redshirt his freshman season. Orlando freshmen offensive lineman Duaron Williams from Jones High and Groveland South Lake product P.J. Harris, a wide receiver, are also redshirting during their current freshman year.
"When I was up there they told me it's a great experience to get bigger, stronger and faster so you can play with those college-level kids," Curtis said.
Iowa State has hit Central Florida hard of late and has six players on the current roster. Besides Williams and Harris, also at ISU is Winter Park QB Sam Richardson, who had a stellar performance off the bench last week in a rout of Kansas. There is also starting DE Willie Scott from Orlando Jones, starting cornerback Jansen Watson from Kissimmee Osceola, and oft-used RB Shontrelle Johnson from DeLand.
Also committed to the 2013 Cyclones class from Central Florida is Clermont East Ridge linebacker Brian Mills, the No. 42 player in Sentinel's 2013 Central Florida Super60.
Curtis, who is an early grad and will enroll at Iowa State in January, came over to Olympia at the beginning of his sophomore year after spending his freshman year under the tutelage of Pine Castle Christian Academy head coach Dave Langdon, who is now at Orlando Christian Prep.
"Dave Langdon taught me so much," Curtis said. "He was a great coach who really started off my career."
"It's been great at Olympia High. When I came in as a sophomore and I got to start it was a dream come true," Curtis added. "It feels like it was just yesterday."
Olympia head coach Bob Head also attributes Langdon's initial tutelage and Curtis' hard work as keys to his success.
"He came in after getting valuable experience from Dave Langdon, whom we all have a lot of respect for and he does a great job, so Shawn had a good framework established," Head said, "We just kind of pushed him to take it to the next level.
"He's been the rock of our offensive line for the last three years. He has worked so hard on technique and footwork and downfield blocking to get where he is today."
Hard work is what Head could not stress enough in describing what type of player Curtis has been.
"He's a tireless worker who is extra motivated to be the best player he can be," Head said. "He's always doing extra and that's what separates him from a lot of people.
"Saturday, Sunday ... no days off with him and he's turned himself into a major college prospect through hard work. He's always doing extra work and that's what separates him from a lot of people. He's also very coachable and real athletic for a lineman."
Curtis points also to some of his offseason training that has been a key for his development.
"Some combines and mostly just lifting and working hard with my personal trainer, Coach Johnny Allen," he said.
The Olympia program has been consistently placing players at the NCAA Division I-A level recently.
Last year, defensive tackle J.T. Hamilton signed with USF, and in 2011 so did his cousin and former Titan safety Corian Hamilton. Joining Corian as DI-A signees in 2011 were DT Deon Green to South Carolina, and WRs Isiah Myers and Henry Eaddy to Washington State. In 2010, QB Trevor Siemian and WR Rashad Lawrence both inked with Northwestern.
"It means a lot. We take a lot of pride in our kids being recruited. Our goal every year is to have 10-plus kids go on to play college football," Head said. "We enjoy every Saturday watching all the kids from Olympia High School play at the next level, and that means on all levels ... Division III on up to Division I. We follow them all."
The next Olympia player likely to commit is slot back Johnny Armstrong, the little 5-foot-7, 161-pound do-everything athlete who led the Titans in almost every offensive category except passing last year. Armstrong has 11 offers, including Iowa State. He also has FAU, FIU, Wake Forest, Illinois, East Carolina, Duke, Buffalo, Northern Illinois, South Alabama and Temple.
Other prospective players with D-I offers at Olympia are LB Ramar Dennis (6-2, 225), who has offers from Cincinnati, FAU, Illinois, Northern Illinois, South Alabama, Buffalo, East Carolina, Temple and Western Kentucky; and DE Nathan Obinwa (6-3, 220), who has South Alabama and Northern Illinois. Obinwa, a stellar student, could end up at an Ivy-type school.
Other Titans who will be looking for homes will be LB Julian Grant (6-1, 210), WR Sam Peele (6-3, 180), who was injured for most of his senior season, and little 5-6, 150-pound ATH Joe Gallagher.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.