You'll have to excuse Quartz Hill High School Athletic Director Bobby Loughridge for his lack of press-conference etiquette Wednesday.
The list of questions for running back Aaron Emanuel, who announced that he would be attending USC next fall, appeared exhausted, and Loughridge wasn't sure how to end the conference.
"The main problem with never having an event like this is that we don't know when it's over," Loughridge said. "Thank you, Mr. President."
That got the athletic director a good laugh and relieved a potentially embarrassing situation. But Loughridge should be forgiven.
It's not every day that this high-desert school stages an event of such magnitude. There were television cameras, lights, microphones and several radio and newspaper reporters.
The Antelope Valley Press sent its entire sports staff of five to cover the conference, with one reporter assigned to write a story about the actual press coverage of the event.
This thing made the Space Shuttle landings at nearby Edwards Air Force Base seem as insignificant as PTA meetings.
But then, this community 75 miles north of Los Angeles has never had a football player quite like Aaron Emanuel. Asked where Emanuel stands among all the players John Albee has seen in his 18 years as Quartz Hill coach, Albee simply replied: "He's the best."
Students and other assorted curiosity-seekers mingled outside the conference room, peeking through the door for a glimpse at the commotion. Several of Emanuel's teammates eventually squeezed inside to witness what is becoming a fad among Southern California prep stars.
Emanuel, considered by some the best high-school running back in the West this year, is the fourth Southland player in the last three years to announce his college intentions at a press conference.
Cheryl Miller, USC women's basketball star, held a press conference three years ago to announce her signing with the Trojans. Former Rubidoux High tailback Ryan Knight informed reporters at a press conference last year that he would be attending USC.
Despite John Williams' absence, Crenshaw High officials held a press conference last year to announce that the basketball star would be signing with Louisiana State.
There wasn't much suspense at Wednesday's press conference. Emanuel actually made his decision Tuesday, and it was reported in Wednesday's Herald Examiner.
In the end, it wasn't last Wednesday's lunch with Marcus Allen and USC President James Zumberge, the Trojan coaching staff, or his recruiting trip to the campus that swayed Emanuel to USC. This decision was the culmination of a long-time goal.
"I've held this certain mystique about USC ever since the sixth grade, when I saw the Trojan Horse run onto the field," said Emanuel, a 6-foot 2-inch, 215-pounder. "I thought that was the greatest thing in the world.
"I saw all the great tailbacks they had and I knew I wanted to be one someday. It's always been a goal of mine to be the USC tailback and win the Heisman Trophy. I've got one out of the way--now it's time to go after the trophy."
Emanuel seemed relaxed throughout the conference and was quite entertaining. Asked if he would miss the Antelope Valley, he said: "Yeah, it's a little too slow for me in L.A. I'll miss the fast lane up here." Asked how many calls he had received from recruiters lately, Emanuel said, "About two million."
He was very relieved that the whole recruiting ordeal was over. Now it was time to relax.
"I can sleep at night now," Emanuel said. "I thank God I didn't have a nervous breakdown through this thing. Tuesday was the first time I've smiled in a long time. I've been tense, but it feels as if I lost a thousand pounds off my back."
Emanuel narrowed his choices to three schools--the University of Washington, Nebraska and USC--and he admitted that, at one point, he might have been leaning toward the Cornhuskers. Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne personally escorted Emanuel to Lincoln in a Lear Jet for his Feb. 1 trip, and the tailback had lunch with Nebraska Gov. Robert Kerry.
"Nebraska put a few thoughts into my head, and when I went on that trip, I sort of lost sight of what I wanted to do," Emanuel said. "They had some real nice facilities, Coach Osborne was nice, and there was a lot of excitement in town. But when I came back, I came down to earth and remembered my priorities."
Albee says Emanuel has all the tools--size, strength, quickness, acceleration, breakaway speed and good vision--to become a successful college back.
"I think they'll find out at USC that they can throw him the ball, too," Albee said.
Emanuel mostly ran at Quartz Hill, where he earned All-Golden League honors three times and All-Southern Section and All-State honors twice. As a senior, he was named CIF Southern Section Player of the Year and California Player of the Year by Cal-Hi Sports Newsletter of Sacramento.
Street and Smith's, Parade Magazine and USA Today placed Emanuel on their All-American teams.
Emanuel's three-year totals at Quartz High were 4,807 yards on 668 carries (7.2 average) and 54 touchdowns. He had his best season as a junior, when he ran for 2,354 yards and 33 touchdowns for the 9-3 Rebels. Though the team dipped to a 3-6-1 record this year, Emanuel still managed to accumulate 1,962 yards and 17 touchdowns.
"We saw a lot of cave-man football, where all 11 defenders said the heck with the pass and came at the tailback," Albee said. "He didn't have a lot of people with him this year, but he still made a lot of yardage."
Emanuel, who has a 2.12 grade-point average, will major in telecommunications at USC and is considering a minor in drama.
"I always thought I'd be a pretty good actor," he said.