Unlike most recruitments, Aidan Decker's future home wasn't new to him when his recruiting process started.
Decker has been somewhat of a fixture at Lehigh sporting events since childhood, where he'd tag along with his friend, Trey Von-Hill, and Trey's father, a Lehigh lacrosse alumnus, to games. When the Mountain Hawks first reached out to the Leading Edge 2020 and Chatham midfielder, Decker knew what he was getting into, and it's a huge reason why he was so receptive to Lehigh's pitch.
"I always loved the atmosphere at Lehigh," Decker said. "My friend's dad also spoke very highly of the school, and I always had the best times. It was great hearing that they were interested since I'd been there a few times before, but when I actually got recruited, I was blown away by what was on the other side."
It didn't take much prodding for Decker to take a serious look at Lehigh, especially since it checked off a significant box in his recruitment.
"My mom's one rule was that she wasn't getting on a plane to visit," Decker said with a laugh.
When it came down to it, there was no reason for him to look elsewhere, and Decker ended his recruitment with a commitment to Lehigh. He's the 18th Leading Edge '20 to commit, the 15th to a Division I school, and he'll join fellow Leading Edge products Cole Kirst (Seton Hall Prep) and Pat McIlroy (Westfield) in Bethlehem.
"Lehigh was the perfect balance of academics and athletics, and it fit my criteria and what I was looking for in my future," Decker said. "I had a connection with (new Mountain Hawks assistant) Coach (John) Crawley throughout the recruiting process, and when I went up on a visit, he took me to a practice and showed my dad and I around. A couple of weeks later, he called to ask if I wanted to join the class, and I was very excited to say, 'yes.'"
It wasn't easy for Decker to have to wait so long to find a collegiate home. He watched and cheered for his teammates who found spots at many of the country's elite schools, but admitted that the process was stressful. Despite that, he doubled down on himself and continued to work and play well against Leading Edge's gauntlet of a schedule, and proved that you can still end up at a great school even if you're not an early verbal.
"It's been a stressful ride because of the rule (that had a major impact on 2020 recruiting), but I just thought, 'I've just got to get out there and seen by these coaches,'" Decker said. "The way I always approached it was if you're not getting looks, keep going and put in the works, despite it being late, I ended up where I wanted to be and couldn't be happier."
Playing on one of the most stacked 2020 teams in the country sure didn't hurt. The Leading Edge '20s continually competed against the nation's elite teams at the best tournaments, and it helped Decker elevate his game to the necessary level. Often, he'd get the best competition in practice, and those practice battles had a formative impact on him.
"One of the great things is that every practice pushed you to be better," Decker said. "Playing with those guys developed me into a better player. I had never played on that high-level of a team until I came here, and Leading Edge is the best guys from every single town. (Leading Edge director) Coach (Chris) Roy and the coaching staff at Leading Edge really helped me get so much better."
Decker isn't quite sure as to what he wants to major in, but he's got an eye on business, particularly with Lehigh's tremendous business program. That, plus a tremendous coaching staff and a terrific alumni network, made it a perfect fit for him.
"You go for four years, but what are you going to do after?" said Decker. "Out of the 12 guys on the team who graduated from Lehigh last year, all 12 had a job right away or were going to grad school. That was definitely something that sold me, plus I don't think there's a much better coaching staff. Coach Crawley plays in the PLL and (head) Coach (Kevin) Cassese has been there for a while and does a great job."
Lehigh's getting a good one, too. Decker has the potential to be a do-it-all midfielder for the Mountain Hawks with ability to be a mismatch for defenses.
"Aidan is a true two-way midfielder and I think he's a perfect fit for the shot-clock era with his ability to get up and down the field," Roy said. "He makes a ton of smart, heady plays and makes great feeds with his vision. More importantly, you have to love his work ethic and everything that he did to put himself in this position. He was patient with the process and continued to play at a high level throughout, and he got rewarded for it. We're excited for him and we're looking forward to see what he can do in Bethlehem."