Free State High senior Christian Ballard, the highest-rated college football prospect in the state of Kansas, said Monday he would attend the University of Iowa next year - not Kansas University as he originally planned.
"I'm committed to Iowa now," Ballard said by phone Monday evening.
The news is big on the football recruiting front. Ballard is one of the most highly recruited players coming out of Kansas in years, and he was KU's first commitment of the 2007 season when he made a pledge during junior day last spring.
Ballard continued to entertain offers, though - and they piled up in massive proportions. For a while, Ballard was interested in Georgia, close to where he grew up. But he recently took a visit to Iowa City with Overland Park Aquinas senior and Hawkeye commitment Brian Smith, and changed his mind about his college plans while up there.
The 6-foot-5, 280-pounder will head back up to Iowa City on Saturday to watch the Hawkeyes' game against No. 1 Ohio State.
Ballard cited facilities, playing time at tight end and getting away from home as reasons he's switching commitments. At one point Monday, Ballard interrupted the interview because Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was calling his cell phone.
"I'm pretty excited," Ballard said. "I've been imagining myself up there."
Ballard is rated by rivals.com as one of the top 100 prospects in the nation, mainly because of his size and athleticism. Over a dozen of the top schools in the country have been after him, including Iowa, Oklahoma, Georgia, UCLA, Arizona State and Michigan.
Recently, Florida State contacted Free State coach Bob Lisher expressing interest in Ballard. But Ballard said he doesn't see that going anywhere.
"I can't see myself playing anywhere but Iowa," Ballard said.
Kansas still has commitments from FSHS seniors Ryan Murphy and Brian Murphy, and is in the running for other top local prospects like Shawnee Mission West's Blake Lawrence and Blue Springs (Mo.) lineman Donald Stephenson.
But, at least from an athletic standpoint, Ballard was the local lunker of the 2007 class, and he said Monday he's heading out of the area to play college football.
"I want to say how appreciative I am about the KU staff," Ballard said. "I'm sorry it didn't work out."