SHS junior receiver Bland commits to Princeton

Jordan Bishop/Stillwater News Press Stillwater High junior wide recevier Anthony Bland (9) has verbally committed to playing football at Princeton University. Bland, a 3-star prospect from 247sports, chose the Ivy League university over five other schools.

Stillwater High’s top football prospect for the Class of 2020 has chosen where he will play football in college.

Wide receiver Anthony Bland announced his commitment to Princeton University via Twitter late last week. Although he won’t be able to officially sign a national letter of intent until December, the star receiver – who moved from San Diego, California, to Stillwater last May – wanted to make his choice early.

It came even earlier than he expected. Bland was thinking of waiting until summer to make his college commitment, but he came to realization no other school was going to treat him like Princeton has throughout the recruiting process.

“I’ve been there twice and I loved it both times,” Bland said. “I talked about it with my parents and we realized it came down to committing to Princeton or wait and try to go to OSU. We talked about how no other school is going to want me as bad as Princeton does, and I want to go somewhere where I’m wanted more. That ruled out everything else.

“… I also wanted to commit before the season started, so I can focus on winning state. I don’t want to worry about anything else. Nothing changed with how hard I’m working. I didn’t think I’d do it this early.”

Stillwater football coach Tucker Barnard was happy for his star receiver who will have one more year in a Pioneer uniform before heading to New Jersey.

“It’s obviously an incredible opportunity to go to a school like Princeton,” Barnard said. “When he came, he talked about how interested he was in Ivy League schools. I think Princeton was kind of his top choice, even back then. He’s a super kid, very smart and a great football player. He’s got a lot going on and will be a really successful man one day.”

Of course, the opportunity to attend and graduate from a prestigious Ivy League university was intriguing to Bland. The academic part of being a student-athlete was important to him.

“I could maybe go to places that I could have a cooler four years football wise with the atmosphere, but to me I get enough of that in high school, compared to what I’m used to,” Bland said. “I want to set myself up better for life.”

Bland instantly made an impact on the Pioneers’ squad last fall. He gave the passing attack a spark en route to a Class 6A-II state runner-up finish – it’s first second-place finish since 1977.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver caught 56 passes for 972 yards and 10 touchdowns during his junior season. He put up those numbers despite being limited to a single catch – for a total of 15 yards – in a pair of games.

“Wherever he went, he would find a way to be a factor on any team,” Barnard said. “I would think that he should have a chance to be a really good football player for (Princeton).”

He was offered a scholarship at Air Force, Army, Columbia University, Eastern Michigan and San Diego State.

Bland is considering pursuing an engineering degree, in possibly civil or mechanical engineering at Princeton.

For now, he will keep working toward his senior season in Stillwater. Choosing a college will be one thing he won’t have to worry about next fall.

“There will be one less thing that we’re worrying about or distracting us from our season,” Barnard said. “I’m just happy for him, though, that it’s the place he wants to go and he knows early. There is probably a piece of mind knowing it’s done.”

Sports reporter Area high school athletics