GLADEWATER, Texas -- The text message remains on Coris Mack’s cellphone.
It was the day news broke that defensive coordinator John Chavis had left LSU for the same position at Texas A&M, and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Daylon Mack tapped out the five-word message to his father that signaled the beginning of his return path to Aggieland.
“This is a true blessing,” the message read.
Mack, who was in Florida at the time preparing for the Under Armour All-America Game (where the five-star defensive tackle eventually won MVP honors), grew excited over Chavis’ arrival at Texas A&M, the school to which Mack was committed for more than a year before decommitting 12 days earlier.
Coris saw it as a sign to his son, who clearly still loved the Aggies despite briefly parting ways with them.
“I said [to Daylon], 'Hey, things are not going to just keep falling in your favor. This is the best setup for you, and you can't ignore that,’” he recalls.
Just more than two weeks later, Daylon Mack silently recommitted to the Aggies. On Wednesday, he made those intentions public and official when the nation’s No. 6 overall prospect signed his letter of intent with Texas A&M.
Most of the buzz and publicity in the weeks leading up to national signing day were reserved for the Aggies’ top offensive recruit, five-star quarterback Kyler Murray. While Murray was undoubtedly the linchpin to Texas A&M’s 2015 recruiting class and maintaining momentum, Mack might be the most important signee for the defensively deficient Aggies.
Since Kevin Sumlin’s arrival prior to the 2012 season, the Aggies’ calling card has been their high-powered offense. However, you can’t win the SEC, or a national championship, without defense, and the Aggies are well aware of that. In the past two seasons, Texas A&M ranked last in the SEC in yards allowed per game and rushing defense. As a result, Sumlin made a change at defensive coordinator, dismissing Mark Snyder and hiring Chavis, who has more than two decades of experience in the conference.
The Aggies need players like Mack to climb out of the SEC's defensive cellar. At 6-foot-1, 330-pounds, Mack possesses tremendous lower body strength and excellent quickness for his size. The Aggies need all the quality talent and depth at defensive tackle that they can get their hands on to sustain a quality SEC defense long term.
Adding Mack to a young defensive line group that includes breakout star Myles Garrett and three other sophomores-to-be who saw playing time on the defensive line gives the Aggies a nice foundation for the future, as do the other defensive line prospects in their 2015 haul (ESPN 300 defensive end James Lockhart and defensive tackle Kingsley Keke).
“I saw what Coach Chavis did with the LSU defense, which was really young talent,” Mack said. “A&M has young talent. ... The players that they have on defense, he said they aren't that far off. I definitely believe him.”
Mack was long a priority recruit for Sumlin and the Aggies. They were the first to offer a scholarship to the East Texas standout more than two years ago, in the middle of his sophomore season at Gladewater High. Dozens of offers followed in the coming months, but Aggieland blew him away from the start, during both his first unofficial visit for a game in the fall of 2012 and for a junior day visit in early 2013.
He wanted to commit to the Aggies right away. His parents, Coris and Geraci, advised he wait, considering he hadn’t visited other schools.
“I remember telling my parents that I wanted to commit,” Daylon Mack said. “It was hard [to wait]. Sometimes I wish I would've went ahead and waited the whole way through. But I really wouldn't take anything back that I did. I like where I am right now.”
He initially committed Oct. 21, 2013, but even when he did, there were ebbs and flows in the recruitment. Mack showed interest in other schools and a desire to visit them then seemed to pause those plans when Murray committed on May 28, 2014.
When Sumlin fired Snyder, Mack, like the rest of the Aggies’ defensive commitments and targets, monitored the defensive coordinator search closely. When it took longer than some anticipated, Mack's patience waned and he decommitted on Dec. 19, hours after ESPN 300 linebacker Malik Jefferson -- seemingly a longtime Aggie lean -- chose Texas over Texas A&M.
Mack, who wanted to be surrounded with elite talent, discovered that five-star cornerback Kendall Sheffield, another priority A&M target, wouldn’t be signing either (opting for Alabama), so Mack jumped ship.
“It was difficult,” Mack said. “It was that uncertainty [surrounding the defensive coordinator search], losing Malik. I messaged Kendall, so I knew we were losing out on Kendall too. Those are guys that I felt were going to be impact players with me. I felt like I owed myself the opportunity to step back.”
Sumlin didn’t lash out at Mack, but simply told him that when he got his defensive coordinator they would talk again. They did, and though Mack explored his options at TCU and Texas, things began looking up when the Aggies nabbed “The Chief.”
“I think the addition of John Chavis did nothing but help solidify his commitment,” Sumlin said.
Mack silently recommitted during his official visit to Texas A&M on Jan. 16 (“By now you know I keep secrets pretty well,” Sumlin said Wednesday), and he showed Chavis the text message he sent his father weeks earlier. He said Chavis got emotional when he saw it.
“I was like, 'Wow, Coach,’” Mack said. “That let me know what kind of person he is. He's passionate about what he does, and I am too. I almost got emotional with him. I could tell that was a big deal to him.
“That showed me what kind of coach he was, and those are the type of people I want to play for."