Even as the Colorado football team changed coaches in November and went through two weeks without a leader, Alec Pell knew he wanted to be a Buffalo.
"Honestly, I wasn't looking at any others," said Pell, who signed with CU last month after playing at Cherry Creek High School. "I was pretty set on CU because of the ability to play for your home state."
When Pell, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker, met new head coach Mel Tucker, he had no doubts about his choice.
"We spent a lot of time together on my official visit and he's a great guy," Pell said. "You can really tell he cares about good people being in the program and he really is going to have a good plan to win. Losing isn't going to be an option under him. That passion and determination is really what got me, and I'm all for it. It's awesome."
Pell is one of 12 prep prospects to have signed with CU last month and one of three that will enroll early. He will be in Boulder later this week.
"I can't be more excited," he said. "I've been counting down the days and been working out and I've been preparing for this all my life. It's a dream come true."
Pell said that with his high school credits completed, it was an easy choice to enroll early.
"I'm just trying to get ahead however I can," he said. "It was a no-brainer to get out there and work with the team, having them work with me and put on weight and just overall try to get me on the field earlier."
Pell, who moved to Colorado from Frisco, Texas, before his sophomore year at Cherry Creek, could be one of the surprise stars of the Buffs' latest recruiting class. He had 13 scholarship offers, but mostly from Mountain West or Football Championship Subdivision teams. Pell originally committed to Boise State in April.
All along, though, he had his eye on CU.
"It was always the one school I really wanted to offer me," he said. "At first they didn't because I wasn't very big, but I put on weight recently and they saw that I had the potential to play linebacker for them."
Just 200 pounds after his junior year, Pell is now 230 and opened the eyes to CU's previous staff and, now, its current coaches.
"One of the most versatile defensive players probably in the country," Tucker said. "He can do it all: offense, defense, special teams. As a linebacker, he can play all four spots in our base 3-4."
Pell played offense and defense during his first two years at Cherry Creek, rushing for a total of 946 yards in 2016 and 2017, while also catching 36 passes. He credits Bruins head coach Dave Logan and assistant Det Betti for having him focus on defense as a senior.
"That has really opened up a lot of opportunities for me," said Pell, who had 88 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and six sacks as a senior. "It really helped me focus on my game to become a better linebacker, inside or out."
Although mostly an outside linebacker at Creek, he could, as Tucker said, play in a variety of spots at CU. Tucker praised Pell's pass-rush ability, high instincts and athleticism.
"There's not anything he can't do and his best football is ahead of him," Tucker said. "He's the type of guy that's going to be a glue guy for us. He's going to be a leader for us, a tremendous asset to our program. I expect him to be a difference maker early in his career."
Pell certainly hopes that's the case and he hopes to make an early impression in spring football — not only on the field, but with film and playbook study.
"It's going to be awesome to be able to get out there with the team early and get a feel for what the program is going to be like," he said. "Honestly (playing inside or outside) doesn't really matter for me, because I know either way, I'm going to come up with a no-pain attitude and hit as hard as I can. I feel like that's really one of my strong suits and I feel like either way I'm going to be able to help the team."