Knox Kadum

Knox Kadum completed his time at Rome High as a four-year starter this past season, leading the Wolves to two state championships and a spot in the semifinals. / File-Steven Eckhoff

A week ago the 3-star quarterback expected to spend National Signing Day making things official with FCS powerhouse James Madison and become a centerpiece of new coach Curt Cignetti’s first signing class.

But Kadum always dreamed of playing at the FBS level — and the right fit didn’t materialize until Virginia Tech initiated a whirlwind courtship last weekend that has Kadum ready to make Blacksburg his home away from home.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling,” Kadum said in a phone interview on Monday. “Part of me keeps thinking if I pinch myself I’ll wake up. The other part of me thinks I’m right where I’m supposed to be. It’s surreal.”

‘A no-brainer decision’

The Hokies had recruited Kadum, a four-year starter for Rome High School where he quarterbacked them to two state titles and another state semifinal appearance. But the coaching staff was also honest with him — they had no room for a quarterback in its 2019 class.

That all changed in January when former starter Josh Jackson and backup Hendon Hooker announced plans to transfer. Virginia Tech went from having four scholarship quarterbacks — three with multiple years of eligibility left — to two.

Kadum had respected the honesty of the coaching staff in the past, so when the Hokies called back last week, Kadum was intrigued.

He had verbally committed to James Madison with a tweet on Jan. 27 and said he knew Virginia Tech had serious interest when Hokies offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen made immediate plans to fly to Georgia to see Kadum throw.

Cornelsen walked into Kadum’s high school last Wednesday to watch a workout that would change the quarterback’s life.

“He wanted mostly to see drills that we do with our football program,” Kadum said. “My quarterback coach was doing some basic drills, but there were some things (Cornelsen) wanted to see; some sprint-out stuff, RPO stuff.”

Cornelsen then sat down with Kadum after the workout to extend an official scholarship offer and set up an official visit that would end up sealing the deal.

“I wanted to know that they really wanted me,” Kadum said. “The whole staff from coach (Justin) Fuente to coach Cornelsen and new receivers coach (Jafar) Williams were all just welcoming. They were big on me. They said I had always been there guy, they just never needed a quarterback. It was a no-brainer decision to commit Saturday night.”

Plan of attack

Kadum would love to move to Blacksburg next week, but his chance of enrolling early is slim.

Kadum graduated from high school in December, but Virginia Tech is already three weeks into the semester. He said the Hokies plan to look into the situation more once Kadum gets his paperwork submitted on Wednesday.

The 6-foot-3, 188-pounder wants to get on campus to compete for a starting job that Fuente promised will be up for grabs during a one-on-one meeting they had over the weekend.

“It’s open,” Kadum said. “He said come in and compete. He told me just to be ready to work. He said he’s going to play the best guy. He’s not scared to start a true freshman, so if I’m the guy, I’ll be playing.”

The coaching staff already has a plan in place if Kadum doesn’t enroll early. The quarterback will get his playbook Wednesday along with a workout plan from the team’s strength and conditioning coach, Ben Hilgart.

Cornelsen also promised to make multiple return visits to Georgia during the spring, aimed at getting Kadum comfortable with Virginia Tech’s offense.

“I need to start studying and I’m going to be studying formations, plays, protections, everything,” Kadum said. “Coach Cornelsen (said) … we are going to get on the whiteboard at the school and he’s going to quiz me on what I know and what I need to keep working on. He wants me in June to be able to come in right away and start getting reps and competing for the spot.”

Kadum is committed to making the most out of an opportunity he freely admits he didn’t see coming.

“From the program I came from and the coaching staff I had, I think they got me prepared for college football and where I need to be,” Kadum said. “I’m just going to come and treat everyday like I’m the starter whether I am or not. I’m going to compete for it, just bring that winning attitude and leadership.”