The Hokies made a splash on the recruiting trail Thursday with the addition of wideout Da'Wain Lofton to their 2021 recruiting class. Even among the most devout Tech recruitniks, the pickup of the 247Sports Composite 3-star (0.8516) over Mississippi State, Washington State and Vanderbilt seemingly came out of nowhere.
Behind the scenes though, it was a work in progress. North Side (Fort Worth, TX) head coach Joseph Turner knew he had a special prospect on his hands after Lofton's sophomore campaign. He took back six kicks that season, won district special teams player of the year, and his talent plus upside warranted a scholarship offer.
Turner reached out to Virginia Tech, and his former coach Justin Fuente, to let them know what he had on his hands. Fuente coached Turner, a former TCU running back, both as a position coach and then as offensive coordinator, during his stint with the Horned Frogs.
By way of a personal call from Fuente, the Hokies ultimately extended him a scholarship December 4th last year, the first program to offer, and that culminated with a FaceTime verbal commitment.
"Last night, at about 9:00 I FaceTimed with [wide receivers] Coach [Jafar] Williams," said Lofton. "I told him, and then he told the rest of the staff, and that was it. Coach Williams was excited. He said that was the best news he had all day. [Running backs] Coach [Adam] Lechtenberg was excited. Coach Fuente was excited too. He called me this morning."
Certainly the relationship between Turner and Fuente was a foot in the door, but it was not the ultimate reason why Lofton picked the Hokies. Rather, Lofton primarily valued the relationship he built with Tech's staff.
"Developing that bond with the head coach and staff. Talking with Coach Williams every other week. Trying to get to know the offense and everything," said Lofton of his decision.
Per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Lofton hauled in 55 catches for 1,216 yards and 15 scores, and he also rushed for 14 touchdowns on the ground. That's 2,079 all-purpose yards and he found the end zone 32 times. Tech recruited him with the potential to play both outside and inside receiver, as well as a return man on special teams.
"Da'Wain can play inside, he can play outside, and if they decide to put 20 pounds on him and put him in the backfield he'd be a helluva running back too," said Turner.
Lofton regularly faced double teams last season, but in Fort Worth's first playoff appearance in 40 years, Wichita Falls HS took extra precautions to contain him.
"I can pull up some playoff film where he's playing wide receiver on the second-receiver side and they had two kids pressed on him as if he's a gunner on punt, then they got a safety over the top," said Turner. "He has three guys on top of him. That's how dangerous the kid is. I could put him outside and he'd score. I could put him inside and he'd score. I could put him at running back and he can score. I could put him at quarterback and he can score. I could put him in the return game and he'll score. Da'Wain is dynamic and he has a very high football IQ."
Even with all the defensive attention, Lofton caught a touchdown and contributed 55 yards of offense.
"In my eyes, he's an All-American because he went out there and scored three-and-a-half touchdowns a game, and was the best player on the field in every game regardless of whether we lost or not," said Turner.
When asked to describe his game, Lofton put it succinctly.
"I know what to do with the ball after I catch it, and I can go make a play," he said.
Beyond his 5-11, 180 pound frame, and 4.48 forty yard dash time, a measurable that stands out for receivers is hand size.
"He wears a 3x glove," said Turner. "He snatches the ball out of the air, man. He has great hands."
Before the COVID-19 dead period, Lofton was planning an official visit to Tech. That would've been his first visit to the school. However, he credited virtual tours for making up for the lack of in-person experience. The end result worked well for the Hokies. Enough to proclaim the #TX2VT movement back from the dead.
"He has the killer instinct because I can put him anywhere and he wants to play ball," said Turner. "He wants the ball all the time, and he wants to go dominate all the time."