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On the busiest day before National Signing Day in 2018, there was a traffic jam in front of a contemporary-style home with large windows and sharp angles at the end of a cul-de-sac in Plantation, Florida, some 25 miles north of Miami.
Over the course of several hours, groups of cars had pulled up to the end of the street and parked. Pat Surtain II says there were six groups, while his father and high school coach, Patrick, recalls five.
However many there were, these vehicles carried some of the most powerful men in college football. They were coaches representing some of the country's most prestigious programs, Nick Saban from Alabama, Ed Orgeron from LSU, Dabo Swinney from Clemson and Mark Richt from Miami among them.
They each had made the pilgrimage with the same hope, but only one of them would be lucky enough to land the high school senior who was considered the top cornerback in the country. As the deadline for Surtain II's decision approached, they arrived at the Plantation home to make one last pitch, crowding the street as they did so.
"Neighbors were probably looking at my house like, What's going on here? Cars just everywhere," Surtain II says.
Each team would get about 45 minutes or an hour in the living room with the Surtains, and in the meantime, the group that was on deck would wait its turn.
"They're waiting outside," Surtain says. "Nick Saban would leave, Dabo Swinney would come in. It was crazy."
"You'd look outside, it's another set of coaches," Surtain II says. "It's back-to-back-to-back."
The recruiting process had been grueling — "hectic," in Surtain II's words — and he'd been going through it for a long time. Schools sometimes would work in visits during Surtain II’s lunch break at American Heritage School. Saban once asked if he could land his helicopter at school for a recruiting trip (perhaps not just for Surtain II; American Heritage had several top recruits). Surtain II's first offer, he says, came from LSU when he was still in middle school in eighth grade — "supposedly," he says with a wry smile. Thankfully, it would all be over pretty soon with the NSD deadline on Feb 7.
"It's a blessing and a curse, to be honest," Surtain says. "If you feel you're a big-time athlete, you want to be in that position, and he was."
All this was more than what the elder Surtain himself had when he was a promising young cornerback finishing high school. Truthfully, he'll say that's fine with him, because he'd always wanted more for his children.
For generations of Surtains, this is the legacy that connects them. The father-son cornerback connection is important and the most evident between the two, but what's bigger is that through situations that can test the will of even the strongest of people, the Surtains have persevered.
That's how it's been for Surtains for generations, and as essential as the father-son cornerback connection seems for Surtain II, the stronger one that connects them is one that goes deeper than football.