When Pennsylvania lineman Bryce Ramer headed south for a camp at UVa late last month, he really had no idea what was coming. Sure, he expected that he would perform well but he had no way of knowing he'd be offered on the other side of the ball.
Now, the 6-foot-5, 303-pound Cavalier commit is excited to have made his decision and to look ahead to live among the "Silverbacks" in the defensive line room that Vic So'oto runs in Charlottesville.
The Beaver (PA) Beaver Area standout had offers from Cornell, Eastern Kentucky, and Bowling Green among others and was picking up interest from Akron, Central Florida, Connecticut, Indiana, and Pitt.
The offer from Bronco Mendenhall and the Cavaliers came well after camp, when the staff had taken Ramer and his family around Grounds and given him an unexpected "full" visit experience.
The story of how Ramer became a Wahoo is quite the blur, especially because it started so humbly, with the Keystone State lineman getting mail from assistant coach Jason Beck, who handles that area for UVa.
"I kept getting posters from Coach Beck that would come to my house and we always wondered what that sort of meant," Ramer told CavsCorner. "He said I was close to an offer but I needed to perform well at camp. He told me to make sure I get to his camp so I did.
"I went down for the camp and I started out at offensive line," he added, "and we got to a 1-on-1 run drill and I went as an offensive tackle and I think I did pretty well. And then Coach Mendenhall comes over and says, "Hey Ramer, go play some defensive end real quick." So I thought, 'Alright,' and so I played defense for a while. And Coach Mendenhall said he really liked what he saw and he told me to work with the defense for the rest of the day."
Now, unlike some guys who get flipped from offense to defense, Ramer has a pretty good feel for the position.
"The fact that I had a bunch of offers already for offensive tackle rather than defensive tackle, it did kind of shock me," he said. "I was kind of surprised he wanted to see me on defense because no one else saw that side of me compared to offense. But I was first team all-conference defensive tackle so I have played defense, I've played both side of the ball since sophomore year.
"It was really cool because Coach Mendenhall was following me through every drill," Ramer added. "Coach So'oto, I got to work with him and he's a really great coach. I just liked the way he taught things and what techniques to use and what times. Then I noticed as we were doing the pass 1-on-1s at the end, I was doing the techniques he told me to do and they were really helping me out and I got to the quarterback nonstop. I think he gave me some really good pointers and he did a great job of coaching me and I felt like he was the right coach for me."
Once the camp was over, Ramer and his family were preparing to go home before things took a very unexpected turn.
"I was going to say goodbye to everyone, not expecting to get an offer or anything," he said. "I went to say goodbye to Coach So'oto and he tells me to hang around and go upstairs by the coach's offices. Coach Beck walked up with my family and me, and we talked the whole way up there. There were a few other recruits up there too. Then they had Coach Kelly (Poppinga) take us on a tour of the campus and they showed me everything. I got see the school and the town and it was very beautiful. I really loved it.
"When we got back after the tour and seeing the stadium and everything, I went back up to talk to Coach Mendenhall and Coach So'oto," Ramer added. "Coach So'oto showed me some clips of where I'd be playing and how to play it. It really felt like to me he was already starting to coach me. I felt like I was already a part of the D-line there."
Position wise, Ramer said that So'oto's intentions were very clear.
"I will be playing the nose, right over the center," he said. "We run a 4-4 at my school but sometimes we go to the Bear and then this year, I'll play the 0 technique a lot too. So I'll get to play nose in our defense here before I get to UVa."
After spending some time with academic advisory staff and discussing his desire to major in kinesiology, he finally got to sit down with Mendenhall and read the letter that the Virginia head coach has new offerees read when he extends the scholarship.
"It was really cool," Ramer recalled. "I knew just being in there was a good sign and I was really excited because Coach Mendenhall seemed really excited about me during camp. So it wasn't uncomfortable at all. It was really nice to talk to him. He pulled out a folder and the letter started with "Dear Future Wahoo" and I just started to smile."
Understandably excited, the pragmatic side of Ramer took over and he had every intention of taking a day or so to think about his decision.
"The point where I almost committed there was after that when we were about to leave," he said. "I was on the steps outside toward the car and I just looked at my mom and I said, 'I feel like this is the place for me.' I just felt like I could see myself walking down those steps to go to practice every day. I really could feel myself there."
Still, the desire to sleep on it and also to call the various other coaches who had recruited him won out. He wanted to take another day to make sure it was "exactly the right fit."
But that didn't sit too well with his mom.
"She was flipping out because I didn't already commit," he said with a laugh. "If it was up to her, I would've gone back up there and committed to Coach Mendenhall right then."
Now, with a few weeks having passed, the feeling has finally sunken in.
"I'll admit these past two years have been very stressful for me," he said. "I knew from the beginning of the summer that I wanted to commit before my senior season. I want to enjoy that, ya know? Now, I know where I am and where I'm going and it feels fantastic. There's a lot of stress and pressure off my back now."
It was a whirlwind day and a long one at that. But it was easily one of the best days of Ramer's life.
"The camp was 9 a.m. to noon I think," he said. "I didn't leave there until like 5:30. I didn't expect to be there that long but hey, it was worth it. It was well worth it."
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