NEW ORLEANS — Soon-to-be Arkansas Razorbacks linebacker Josh Paul is scheduled to — finally — arrive in Fayetteville in early July, completing possibly the most drama-free recruitment of the 2017 cycle.
Paul committed to the Hogs in June 2016 and remained disinterested in entertaining other offers or visits throughout his senior year.
“I had a couple schools ask about him,” De La Salle High football coach Ryan Manale said. “He wouldn’t allow anybody to come in. He made his decision and that was it.
“Toward the end of the year, some coaches definitely wanted him to take his official visits. He liked Arkansas. He felt at home there and he didn’t need anything else.”
Paul had 74 tackles — 9 for loss — and 2 interceptions during his senior year at De La Salle, which had one of its greatest football seasons in school history. The Cavaliers went undefeated during the regular season and reached the LHSAA Division II playoffs semifinals, finishing 11-1.
Explaining why he didn’t think any more about recruiting after he committed, Paul said his reason was two-fold.
“I really was focusing on winning my senior year and getting my team better,” Paul said. “I wanted to make the program better after I leave.
“Also, I liked it at Arkansas. It was like a family atmosphere. They care about you in more than just football. It’s kind of like my high school.
“You want to be somewhere where you feel wanted and welcome.”
Paul was a catalyst in the De La Salle football program’s rise in recent years. Manale said that when he became coach in 2012, there were 28 players on the team.
Paul is De La Salle’s first Power 5 football signee since safety Chris Horton signed with UCLA in 2003.
Paul might be the least known of Arkansas’ 2017 signees. He doesn’t carry the high ranking of other members of the Hogs class, at least according to recruiting services.
Manale said a lot of that is because Paul didn’t go to summer camps.
“I’m a little different with that,” Manale said.
Early in his tenure at De La Salle, Paul said, he allowed his players to attend summer camps and saw some get injured, which hurt the team the following season.
“So I shut down camps,” Manale said. “I told them they have to come get approval from me. I do allow kids to go to camps, but if their film is that good, then why are you risking injury for your football team?”
Paul’s film was good enough to get him noticed by Arkansas assistant coach Michael Smith, who recruits the state of Louisiana.
Asked about his expectations for the 2017 season, Paul said, “It’s a big stage. I think I can play on that stage, but I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to go in and start. I do think I might get to play a little bit on special teams, do good there, start making plays and learn the system a little more and get more involved on defense.
“My thing is that if a coach puts me in, I want to make it hard for him to take me out. That’s how I look at it.”