CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Kevin Pierre-Louis had a choice last fall between enrolling early at Boston College and making a trip to visit the 30-plus relatives he has in Haiti. Had he chosen the latter, he might have been trying to travel back to his home in Norwalk, Conn., when the island was hit by a devastating earthquake three weeks ago.
Pierre-Louis has relatives from Haiti on both sides of his family. His father's side of the family is from the town of Léogâne, which is an hour west of Port-au-Prince, and escaped the worst of the earthquake. His mother's side of the family, however, lives in Port-au-Prince proper and saw everything crumble around them. Aunts and uncles own a sugar-cane plantation, two ice factories and a series of apartment buildings rented out to other families.
"When the earthquake had started, they wanted to stay there because they'd built everything they had around the houses they'd bought," Pierre-Louis said. "People were like, 'You have to leave.' Thankfully they did, because a couple of hours later, the building ended up falling."
Entrepreneurship runs deep in Pierre-Louis' family, and the linebacker enrolled at Boston College -- choosing the Eagles over Duke, Stanford and Virginia -- in large part because of the connections he hopes to make in the business community in Boston. He intends to select a major from the Carroll School of Management.
"He's our profile type of player," BC coach Frank Spaziani said Wednesday during a press conference unveiling his recruiting class. "We got on him early. We knew a lot about him. We did a good job recruiting. He has a special situation in a nice school, and he's a good student, a good player."
A good player, indeed. The well-spoken Pierre-Louis is the most highly touted of the 21 recruits who signed national letters of intent with BC on Wednesday. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound linebacker earned Connecticut player of the year honors last season and was ranked the No. 20 outside linebacker by ESPN's Scouts, Inc.
Pierre-Louis comes out of a small football program -- the King School in Stamford, Conn., has only 290 students in its upper school -- that finished second in its division of the New England Prep School Athletic Council two seasons ago.
"We feel Pierre-Louis is an underrated national prospect, perhaps due to not playing against strong perceived competition in Connecticut," Scouts, Inc., wrote in its profile. "[He] has great initial burst and acceleration you simply can't coach and could develop into a defensive difference-maker if he can land in a heavy pressure defense that frequently puts him on the move to attack vertically."
Five of the six linebackers who started at least one game for the Eagles last season will return. Outside linebacker Steele Divitto, whose Don Bosco Prep team won three straight New Jersey state titles, likewise will be in the mix.
But if Pierre-Louis plays up to his advance billing, Spaziani will find room for him on the field somewhere -- be it at weak-side outside linebacker or on special teams.
"If I play or not, it's in my hands," Pierre-Louis said. "I believe I have the ability to play. If I can catch up with all the information, everything they're throwing at me fast enough, that will determine if I will play next season or not. As of right now, I'm going to try my hardest. I do want to be out on that field."
Luke Kuechly came in last season without much fanfare -- he was ranked the 35th-best prospect in the state of Ohio by one recruiting service -- but proceeded to record a team-best 158 tackles and earn ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
"You want to get to the point where you hope that you really don't need them to step in," Spaziani said. "We're not at that point. That's where we're trying to get, where we can say that whoever comes in and shows us they can play is a real bonus. But there's going to be some of these guys that are going to have to play."
That might even apply to the quarterback position. Former minor-league baseball player Dave Shinskie held his own during his freshman season, completing 51.7 percent of his passes and throwing more touchdowns (15) than interceptions (14).
Recruits Joshua Bordner and Chase Rettig both enrolled in January and figure to compete for the job in spring ball and in fall camp. Rettig in particular could seize the job with a big offseason: He was ranked the 10th-best quarterback prospect by Scouts, Inc., and turned down Tennessee and Southern Cal to come to BC.
"He is a big athlete with a big arm, a pocket guy first with excellent athleticism to make plays with his legs when he needs to," Scouts, Inc., wrote in its profile of Rettig. "He is very well built and strong, has a tall, thick frame and possesses one of the finest arms in this class."
Brian MacPherson is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.