File photo: Gordon Deloach/TexasHSFootball

DESOTO, Texas — To say Byron Hanspard, Jr., a 4-star DeSoto (TX) High School athlete and son of famed Texas Tech running back Byron Hanspard, was one of the highest anticipated free agents of the 2018 prep offseason may have been an understatement.

The senior held offers from Power 5 Conference programs like Indiana, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Texas Tech, Tennessee, and West Virginia and in-state institutions like Houston, North Texas, and UTSA.

Hanspard, however, decided to pledge his allegiance 83 miles south in Waco following a in-home meeting with Baylor’s coaching staff on Sunday.

“The legacy [at DeSoto] I have for myself will be remembered just like my father’s and Shawn Robison,” Hanspard, Jr. said. “Baylor is a special place to be full of positive energy and the mindset of being great. Coach [Matt] Rhule is starting off fresh and only wants positive vibes and greatness from each player.”

The 2017 Tom Landry Award finalist —  and honor given to the best high school football player in the North Texas area – decommitted from the University of Arkansas in late November following the dismissal of former Head Coach Bret Bielema but sealed his re-commitment to the state of Texas less than a month later.

Rhule took the Baylor head coaching position December 6, 2016, in the wake of a rash of scandals involving former Head Coach Art Briles, former Athletic Director Ian McCaw.

According to Hanspard, Jr., Rhule’s influence — and a dash of suggestion from McGuire — was enough to sway his favor.

“Mistakes happen yes, but with the start of a new staff with common morals, great things can come,” Hanspard, Jr. said. “The foundations of being the greatest player on and off the field, being where you supposed to be, being on time, and making a positive impact everywhere you go are things live by at DeSoto day in and day out.”

As a senior this season, he accumulated 43 tackles (33 solo) and three tackles for loss.

Hanspard, Jr. also tallied an interception while helping the defending state Champion DeSoto Eagles reach the Regional Semifinal round.

He won a UIL 6A State Championship with current Texas Christian University freshman quarterback Shawn Robinson in 2016. Despite the connection with Robinson and fellow Texas Tech bloodline Jalen Reagor — his father Montae is a Red Raider alum and former NFL veteran — he chose Rhule, a first-year head coach in Waco, and a familiar face in assistant and McGuire, the former Cedar Hill High School head football coach.

Photo courtesy 247Sports

“Coach [Joey] Mcguire and I have had a relationship prior to him being at Baylor so it was even better to see him in green and gold,” Hanspard, Jr. said about what pushed him toward the green and gold of Baylor and away from other prospective suitors, adding a slight chuckle.

Baylor finished the season 1-11 during its first season under Rhule, but pushed nationally ranked Iowa State, College Football Playoff Semifinalist Oklahoma and conference rival West Virginia to the brink in respective 23-13, 49-41, and 38-26 defeats.

“Coming from Desoto — one of the best programs in the country — finding a home similar to what I’m used to wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Hanspard, Jr. continued. “Finding great men who want to be great is definitely what Baylor is about. Coach [Todd] Peterman is a phenomenal man and he and Coach Rhule resemble each other a lot.”

Hanspard, Jr. joins a team that should return starting running back and former Ennis Lion Terence Williams and hulking Dallas-area offensive tackle Patrick Lawrence and could gather a recruiting class that includes the likes of lightining-quick Cedar Hill wide receiver Joshua Fleeks, second-level blocker and Katy offensive tackle Connor Galvin, and 6-foot-7 and 221-pound Cuero tight end Bralen Taylor.

Fleeks would join Hanspard, Jr. as the only other 4-star prospect, while Galvin and Taylor are atop a list of 3-star recruits 16 athletes long.

Marcus Matthews-Marion is the managing editor of TexasHSFootball, covering prep football throughout the Lone Star State. Follow him on Twitter, @TheMJMatthews, and read more of his content here.

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