SHERMAN OAKS — Justin Fargas, the nation's top-rated high school running back, committed to Michigan on Tuesday, proving there is something to be said for being consistent.
Fargas chose Michigan over UCLA and USC, surprising many in the crowd of about 100 observers who packed the Notre Dame High library after school to hear his announcement.
The gathering responded with an audible gasp.
But in explaining his decision, Fargas said while his enthusiasm for USC and UCLA waxed and waned in the last six months, his feelings for Michigan remained strong.
"When I thought about it, Michigan was the constant," Fargas said. "I like the Michigan program and I like the 112,000 people that are going to be in their stadium cheering.
"The people out there are crazy about football and I'm crazy about football. It's a perfect fit."
Fargas, twice The Times' Valley player of the year, plans to sign with Michigan on Feb. 4, the first day football recruits can bind themselves to college programs.
The decision to attend Michigan came Saturday night when Fargas, who rushed for 6,293 yards and 76 touchdowns in his high school career, talked with his father, Antonio.
A long-time advocate for UCLA, Antonio Fargas listened to his son speak with passion about the Wolverines and said, "I think you should go to Michigan."
Said Justin Fargas: "Right then, I knew and he gave me a hug. I want to be a man and all but I cried."
Fargas' commitment gives Michigan arguably the nation's top recruiting class.
The Wolverines have reeled in one of the nation's top high school quarterbacks, two of its top receivers and three defensive Parade All-Americans.
Fargas said the Wolverines' stockpile of talent, particularly on the offensive line, played a part in his choice.
"They have a young line and they won the national championship with it," Fargas said. "So that's a big plus that [the linemen] are going to be there for most of my career."
Michigan returns four of five starters on the offensive line and the likely new starter played in every game last season.
Also returning is running back Anthony Thomas, Big Ten Conference freshman of the year who rushed for 549 yards but was never a starter last season.
"[Fargas] is the home run hitter they don't have in their backfield right now," said Jim Cnockaert, Michigan football beat writer for the Ann Arbor News.
"Anthony can drag three guys 10 yards but Justin is going to be a great complement to him. And with the wide receivers they have, their offense looks very scary now," Cnockaert said.
Asked how he felt about leaving California, Fargas said that location did not factor into his calculations.
"It's going to be tough to leave a lot of friends, family and people who have followed me over my high school career," Fargas said. "But I think it might be for the better."
Fargas, who won the state 100-meter title last year, said he plans to compete in track for Michigan but that it will take a decided back seat to football.
"If I was making a track decision I probably wouldn't have went to Michigan," Fargas said. "But it's a football decision and track is something I do because I like to compete."
Fargas is relieved to have finished his run through the recruiting gantlet.
"It's a weight off my shoulders," he said. "I'm a Wolverine now and I'm happy."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
A game-by-game look at how Justin Fargas fared in the 1997 season. Also his year-by-year and career statistics:
Opponent Att. Yds. Avg. TD Alemany 25 283 11.3 3 Burroughs 22 257 11.7 5 Beverly Hills 18 266 14.8 3 Crespi 26 175 6.7 2 St. Paul 26 154 5.9 3 St. Francis 11 81 7.4 0 Chaminade 24 180 7.5 0 Bishop Montgomery 25 404 16.2 6 Serra 22 104 4.7 1 Harvard-Westlake 21 317 15.1 4 Agoura 20 119 6.0 2 Oxnard 25 239 9.6 5 Righetti 29 159 5.5 1 Arroyo Grande 19 78 4.1 0 1997 313 2816 9.0 35 1996 284 2945 10.4 34 1995 74 532 7.2 7 Career 671 6293 9.4 86