ATWATER -- Aziz Shittu left time for one last dramatic pause.
After squeezing out every drop of tension in the room, the Buhach Colony senior announced his decision.
"Where I'll be going to college the next four years will be ... Stanford University," Shittu said as he put the Cardinal cap on. (See video below.)
Shittu's announcement drew a large ovation from the 60 classmates, friends, family, coaches and media members that crammed into the school's dance room on Wednesday afternoon.
Wednesday was national signing day, the first day high school football players can make their college choices official by signing their letters of intent.
Shittu was the most heavily recruited football player in Merced County in the last decade.
He's the third-ranked defensive end in the nation by Rivals. He's been named to All-American teams by Sports Illustrated and Parade Magazine and had scholarship offers from schools across the country.
Shittu had originally verbally committed to Stanford in the fall, but backed out to go through the entire recruiting process.
"I wanted to leave no stone unturned," he said. "In the end, I just felt Palo Alto was home."
He had hats from USC, Cal and Stanford in front of him before he made his decision.
He made visits the past two weekends to USC and UCLA, respectively.
"(Stanford) is a football program on the rise and a top five academic institution," Shittu said. "When I got admitted I couldn't pass it up."
Buhach Colony held a signing ceremony for Shittu, center Matt Cochran (Cal) and quarterback Nick Datray (Pacific University, Oregon).
"It's pretty special," said Cochran, who verbally committed to Cal on Jan. 3. "It's the conclusion to the whole recruiting process. I'm glad it's over with. It was a long process. It was frustrating at times, but I'm glad with my decision."
Shittu and Cochran are close friends, which makes "The Big Game" between Stanford and Cal the next four years even bigger in Atwater.
"I'm not making any predictions, but The Axe is staying where it's at," Shittu said. "I love Matt. He's like a brother to me. It's going to be fun."
As the two posed for pictures the friendly banter was already taking place.
"I hope you guys go 12-1 the next four years," Shittu said.
"Keep smiling, Shittu," Cochran said.
Shittu had kept his decision a secret, only informing his close family, until his announcement on Wednesday.
"It wasn't that tough for me to keep it a secret," Shittu said. "I think it was tougher for my mom because she was very happy with my choice to go to Stanford."
Datray is headed to play at Division III Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.
"It's exciting," Datray said. "I can't wait to get up there and meet the class I'll be with. The coaches have talked about a bonding trip they take us on."
Meanwhile, Livingston's Kelsey Gallegos signed her letter of intent to accept a partial cross country scholarship to Cal State Monterey Bay earlier in the day. Gallegos signed in front of her family and coaches.
Gallegos fell in love with the campus when she visited last June. The close proximity to the beach was tough to turn down as well.
"I worked very hard for this," Gallegos said. "All the sweat, tears and all that was worth it."
Buhach Colony's Aziz Shittu picks Stanford
Buhach Colony's Matt Cochran picks Cal Bears
Buhach Colony's Datray picks Pacific University