D’Andre Christmas-Giles doesn’t want to take credit for being a trend-setter.
But the four-star defensive tackle from St. Augustine High School would like to think that his Tuesday night commitment to Texas at least set the stage for the Longhorns’ flurry of success Wednesday, making them the hottest national story of signing day.
“I knew there were a lot of great guys out there who were thinking like I was,” said Christmas-Giles, who chose Texas over LSU and TCU. “So maybe what I did help a little. But the main thing is Texas is back on the rise, and we’re going to make it what Texas is supposed to be again.”
Certainly the Longhorns appear on their way back.
The Longhorns went into signing day ranked 35th nationally and just fourth in the Big 12 in a composite view of the major recruiting services, a result of last season’s losing record (5-7) that had third-year coach Charlie Strong on the hot seat.
But Texas managed to flip linebacker Erick Fowler from LSU and won a number of in-state battles to rise to No. 13 nationally and No. 1 in the Big 12 by the end of the day.
But the Longhorns didn’t stay entirely in Texas.
Former LSU assistant Brick Haley helped them land defensive tackle Gerald Wilbon from Destrehan, tight end Peyton Aucoin from Brother Martin and linebacker Malcolm Roach from Madison Prep in Baton Rouge.
The Longhorns did miss out on another tight end from Brother Martin, Irvin Smith, who signed with Alabama.
“Brick came in here and built an automatic relationship with a lot of guys,” St. Aug coach Al Jones said. “It was like he’d never left LSU. D’Andre was really taken with the discipline he and Coach Strong are emphasizing at Texas. He’s going to be a great fit for them.”
Christmas-Giles’ signing with Texas was the finale of a story that was as dramatic as the Longhorns’ rise in the recruiting rankings. A year ago, he was an unknown who had to sit out his junior season after transferring form Salmen.
“That humbled me a lot,” Christmas-Giles said. “You have to work just as hard as everybody else, but then you can’t play. I couldn’t wait to get back on the field.”
But all the colleges had to go by was tape of his sophomore season at Salmen, plus spring practice at St. Aug, since Christmas-Giles did not attend any of the major summer camps.
But just that much limited observation had schools interested enough that, by Aug. 29, his birthday, he had started getting offers from the likes of Texas and Tennessee, to whom he committed that day.
And as Christmas-Giles’ senior season progressed — he had 49 tackles and was co-MVP of the Catholic League — more offers came in, finally totaling more than 30.
Christmas-Giles was named to The Advocate’s Super Dozen and was ranked the No. 6 defensive tackle in the country and No. 83 overall prospect by Rivals.com.
For someone who didn’t get to experience the normal recruiting process, it was a sometimes confusing experience, even though he was at a school that is used to high-profile recruiting.
“You hear so many negative things about every school,” Christmas-Giles said. “There were a lot of them about Texas and how Coach Strong was going to be fired. But my parents and my coaches helped me understand what was going on.”
He had already decommitted from Tennessee after an unofficial visit there convinced him the non-football life at that campus was not for him.
Along with Texas, Christmas-Giles made official visits to LSU, TCU and Texas A&M. After the last one, he and his stepfather, Cleon Walker, made a list of all the pros and cons of the schools under consideration, including the weather.
In the end, Texas prevailed.
“I really liked LSU, and it was close,” Christmas-Giles said. “But Texas has an amazing coaching staff, and it’s a beautiful school.
“More than football, I want a degree from there. But we’re going to win the national championship, too.”