When Joey Velazquez committed in September 2016 to play baseball for Ohio State, it seemed like a dream come true.
"Sure, I thought at the time it was a done deal," said the two-sport standout, now a DeSales senior. "But things change."
After a solid 2017 football season, Velazquez thought he owed it to himself to post a highlight video online.
"Then things got a little crazy," he said.
"Michigan coaches told me they were looking at my film and talking about offering me and asked if I was still interested in playing football," he told Land of 10. "I said of course and just explained that I wanted to keep my options open. Then, coach (Jim) Harbaugh came on the other end and told me I could play both football and baseball. When I got that news I was just like walking on cloud nine. It was unreal."
In March, Michigan made the first of 15 subsequent football offers. After he earned MVP for safeties and linebackers at Michigan’s camp in June, the Wolverines turned up the heat. He officially flipped his commitment to Michigan on June 22.
Defensive coordinator Don Brown and linebackers coach Al Washington, a Watterson graduate, targeted Velazquez as the ideal fit for a featured "Viper" role in the Wolverines defense. The last two players to fill the hybrid safety/linebacker position were 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Jabrill Peppers, now with the Cleveland Browns, and 2017 all-Big Ten selection Khaleke Hudson.
"He didn’t get these offers because of a five-minute video," DeSales coach Ryan Wiggins said. "He performed very, very well at camps and people noticed that he has a real nose for the ball and is incredibly versatile. We used him a variety of roles last year and that’s exactly what Michigan liked because in their very aggressive scheme they ask their 'Viper' to be physical in run support and cover the whole field."
In a Swiss Army knife role in 2017, Velazquez gained 495 all-purpose yards and returned kicks in addition to making 50 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions at safety. The 6-foot, 205-pounder has been timed in 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash and bench presses 390 pounds.
"He’s a rare case and a rare kid," Wiggins said. "I’ve never had anyone who loves conditioning and practice as much as Joey does."
Wiggins said he plans to move Velazquez to linebacker so he can be a more impactful playmaker off the edge.
"I like being closer to the ball and playing more downhill," he said.
A two-time first-team all-Ohio choice in baseball, Velazquez was named Division II state player of the year and co-Dispatch all-metro player of the year last spring after batting .545 with three home runs and 37 RBI. Coach Tom Neubert called the center fielder "a once-in-a-lifetime player."
Rated as the No. 1 Ohio player in the 2019 class and the No. 76 prospect in the nation by Prep Baseball Report, Velazquez likely will be a high choice in the major league draft in June.
"Obviously, I love both sports and I have since I was little," Velazquez said. "Baseball comes a little more natural, but I love football just as much and I wasn’t looking forward to giving it up. I may have to make a decision at some point, but one of the biggest selling points with Michigan was that we’re going to make it work."