Will McLaughlin takes comfort in knowing a commitment to an in-state college football program comes with built-in benefits. Pledges from Iowa and Iowa State are reminding him of that regularly.
Gowrie (IA) Southeast Valley's Aaron Graves, a Hawkeye verbal, and Jacob Imming, a Cyclone verbal from Sergeant Bluff (IA) Luton, are recruiting McLaughlin for their respective future schools. They're all in the Class of 2022.
"They're not pushy or anything, but they feel strongly about the schools they're committed to. That's for sure," the Harlan linebacker told HN. "It lets me know that wherever I choose to go I'll have a friend with me."
Iowa State offered McLaughlin a scholarship in November of 2019. Iowa jumped in with its opportunity this past May. Kansas State and Buffalo also have offered, and Missouri has shown him a lot of interest.
McLaughlin (6-3, 220) and other recruits across the country have been dealing with a dead period that began last March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It's prohibited guided college campus visits or face-to-face meetings with coaches. He has visited Iowa State.
Circumstances are slowing down the process for McLaughlin. He plans on waiting until the dead period ends so he can visit colleges and gain a better feel for them. He'd like to commit before his senior season of football but is being flexible so he can make the most informed decision.
That charge is taking place virtually right now. He's meeting with Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State and Missouri periodically.
"I've still been able to see the coaches' faces, talk to them, interact," he said.
McLaughlin recently met virtually with an academic advisor at Iowa State and was scheduled to Zoom with Cyclone strength coach Dave Andrews next week. Iowa has provided virtual tours of its facility and stayed on consistent contact.
"It's a really good relationship (with the Hawkeyes). I talk to coach (Jay) Niemann, coach (Kirk) Ferentz, coach (LeVar) Woods and coach (Tyler) Barnes. All of them them are contacting me every two weeks, once a week. They're good at communicating," McLaughlin said.
Kansas State also reaches out frequently as does Missouri. The Tigers still are waiting to pull the trigger on an offer.
"I think they want to wait until they can see me in person," he said.
Academics will play a significant role in McLaughlin's decision. A farm kid, he would major in Agriculture if he chose Iowa State. It would be Business at Iowa. He personally owns cattle and pigs.
"The plan after college, if I'm not going to the NFL, is to come back to the farm and help dad out and then hopefully someday it's mine. But I could see myself going to Iowa, getting a Business degree. I've already got the farm knowledge. My dad has done a good job of instilling that in my brain. Honestly, it doesn't matter all that much to me," he said.
The Cyclones see McLaughlin as a linebacker. Iowa is telling him it could be linebacker or defensive end.
"I like both (positions) but linebacker is what I've played. It's what I know. I'll do anything to get on the field, though," he said.
McLaughlin accumulated 70 tackles (40 solo) for an 11-1 Harlan team that reached the Class 3A state championship game. He totaled 12.5 stops for loss and 4.0 sacks. He caught 16 passes for 190 yards on offense.
Rivals and 247Sports rank McLaughlin as a three-star prospect. The former sees him as the No. 25 outside linebacker nationally in '22 and the No. 4 player overall in Iowa for his class. The latter puts him as the No. 30 inside linebacker and No. 10 in the state.
Here's a look at his junior highlights: