St. Clairsville junior-to-be Michael Ferns was surprised when he received his first formal collegiate football scholarship offer in early March from Marshall.
Almost four months and 21 more offers later, Ferns said Monday night that "things are slowing down."
As he begins to shift total focus toward the Red Devils' 2012 season, Ferns announced that his list of possible destinations has been narrowed to Michigan, Notre Dame and Penn State.
"I know I will be happy at any of the three," Ferns said. "I knew after the last few visits that these three schools had everything I was looking for, and I just decided to come out with a top three, so I don't waste my or someone else's time."
Since Ferns competed in the Division II State Track and Field Championship, he and his family have been logging all sorts of miles, making visits to Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and this past weekend Notre Dame.
"I don't care to go visit anymore," Ferns said. "It's nice to be able to sit back and relax some this summer. It's been hectic since school got out."
Along with the college trips, Ferns was competing for the Red Devils' basketball team in summer workouts and also going through his conditioning work for the football season.
"I am happy that I can be able to focus more on my football season now," Ferns said.
Ferns, who is mature beyond his 16-year old age, realizes that the recruiting trail will pick up full steam ahead once his season and the respective college seasons end late in the fall.
While some were surprised that Ferns narrowed his choices so quickly, he's had nary a second thought.
"It was a great day (Monday)," Ferns said. "It was great getting back into football and it was a lot easier on me that I didn't have to call 10 different coaches. I feel some will lay off, but I realize some (schools) will still fight it and continue to call, but it just makes the whole situation a lot easier. I am definitely happy I did it."
Prior to visiting Ann Arbor, Ferns had never set foot in the state of Michigan.
"Getting up that way for the first time, it's a great place," Ferns said. "Obviously, the Michigan football program is big, I enjoyed their coaching staff and the academic opportunities there were great."
This past weekend, Ferns and his family headed to South Bend for their first look at the Irish's campus. They had the opportunity to meet with the coaching staff, including head coach Brian Kelly.
"Notre Dame was a great weekend," Ferns said. "I enjoyed it, my family enjoyed it. It was just a really, really nice place. Obviously, the opportunities with a Notre Dame degree that could come along are really exciting."
Ann Arbor, South Bend and State College have another similar trait outside of being home to a major college. They're all small towns, which Ferns likes.
"I am not a big city guy," Ferns said. "I am from the Ohio Valley, and I think that in fact played a role in my decision. I wanted a place that was fairly calm, not heavy population wise and somewhere I feel like my priorities will be a lot easier to focus on."
So, when will Ferns formally call either Brady Hoke, Kelly or Bill O'Brien and make his verbal commitment?
"I am going to look things over the next few months and hopefully, by the end of my junior (academic) year, I'll be ready to make a decision and commit and then head into my senior year."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TLSportsSeth