Disclaimer: I don’t know exactly what I’m talking about here. I am simply an observer, as I am with many things in life. I take it all in and form an opinion, then I write about it. But in the household where I reside, I pick up on a lot of things having to do with football, whether I really want to or not. Living in this household I have seen and heard many things over the years. Some I may share, and some I will not. I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly of recruiting this year. With all of that said, this is my take.
After the regular season come the playoffs, after the playoffs come the holidays, and right around the new year recruiting season comes into full swing. I’m asked by friends if I’m relieved when football season is over. Yes, in some ways it can be a relief, but in many ways it is just the beginning. Recruiters come knocking. They come to the school and to the homes of players. They call on the weekends and at night while my family is trying to have dinner, or when The Coach and I are attempting to have an evening out. Many of them think that The Coach will sway a player one way or another. While The Coach can give advice when asked, he normally tries to stay neutral and is much more level-headed than I would be if I were in his shoes. When The Coach arrives home at night, he tells me about all of the college coaches who have called or sent texts and the recruiters who have met with him that day. Many times his whole day is spent with recruiters. It is part of his job, but since he is also the Athletic Director, his job isn’t done, and he spends time between recruiters working on eligibility and working other sporting events at the school. Sometimes the recruiters even attend the other sporting events to see athletes in action and meet various young people who may be of interest to them in the future. He’s asked whether or not he has players who could be assets to the university or college. He has to be honest. While some players are tremendously talented on the field, many aren’t working as hard as they should in the classroom.
This year loads of colleges have come calling, because of four-star rated Dax Hollifield. He’s the kind of player every college wants because he’s simply a great kid. I’ve watched him grow up. He works hard both on and off the field, and is truly humble and pleasant to be around. Stanford is interested in Dax, and a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet David Shaw, their head coach. I’m not immediately impressed by anyone just because they are a fancy schmancy football coach. But after meeting Coach Shaw, I was impressed. That meeting inspired me to watch his Ted Talk about how football can save the world. Now, I’m not a total believer in that statement, but after years of watching my husband and other great men coach, and learning more about the game of football than I ever wanted to learn, I truly see value in the game. In his talk, Coach Shaw explains how Stanford looks for intelligent and academically strong athletes. They don’t simply wish to be a great school for academics or a great school who wins championships. Schools don’t have to be one or the other, they can be both. Coach Shaw explains how Stanford is paving the way for higher education to have greatness on the field and in the classroom in order to create young people who are valuable in a variety of areas and go on to help make the world a better place. Young people who wish to be recruited have to catch on to this idea.
After the past few months, I find myself imagining what it must be like for high school athletes. There’s a whole plethora of message boards, forums, dot-coms, and recruiting analysts who have something called Crystal Ball Predictions, and it makes me nauseated to think about the pressure these young people and their families experience. Some are noticed by everyone because of their outward, stand out athletic ability. On film, they put on a show. Recruiters know exactly what they are looking for, or do they? How would it be to feel wanted by everyone? Fought over constantly? Some student-athletes know, but others who are talented won’t know. They have to fight to be noticed. How can they do that? Is it worth it for a kid who dreams of playing in college or in the NFL?
According to a little digging and curiosity, I found that about a quarter of the athletes in the NFL weren’t ranked at all or recruited as a high school player. Here are excerpts from two different articles I found on unranked players:
“Also impressive is that 19 players were rated as 2-star prospects or not rated at all, meaning nearly one-quarter of the players at the top of the league in 2016 brushed off the lack of belief in them by talent evaluators and grinded all the way to NFL greatness.”
Ben Kercheval, CBS Sports Writer
“This is often the most interesting category. These are the players that came out of nowhere and transformed themselves into NFL players. Most did so as a walk-on or playing at a Division II school or smaller.
The Arizona Cardinals first round pick, Haason Reddick, is a perfect example. He walked on at Temple as a defensive back and eventually blossomed into a force at defensive end leading the nation in tackles for loss as a senior.
Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk is another example of unranked to first rounder. He started his career at the Division III level at UW-Stevens Point before transferring to Wisconsin and transforming into an All-American. Now, he’s a member of the New Orleans Saints.
New Orleans Saints second round pick Gerald Everett signed with Bethune-Cookman (Florida) out of high school, while Chicago Bears second round pick Adam Shaheen was plucked out of Ashland University (Ohio).”
Chris Hummer, 247 Sports
Some young athletes are going to have to work to make connections because they will never be officially recruited. Head coaches aren’t able to make every athlete look like a star. Even when head coaches recommend players, it never comes down to the word of the coach. Young men must learn to advocate for themselves, but how? One of the ways they can help their chances of playing at the college level and possibly receiving scholarships is hard work on and off the field, meeting and talking with college coaches, attending camps, and making college visits. My friend and coworker, Omar Porter, recently started producing videos and podcasts to help young athletes learn to market themselves as worthy student-athletes and find college programs where they would like to play.
Click here to check it out: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D9JLVMxrJPYk&h=ATOsxQfNEL_gK29LXy_YCHdJ5Rdp83uGZl1iRljMg239R4fO-YL7_VHVNi6QDGKBfeDZXHHccIlPJHlgYtSlWtIheEqAwSPNHcuN4cMK974zGTKKQ3unJ42XKA&s=1&enc=AZMkszW8EPy_dy6lRd9xI9aXzUT9nXdURxVhMcak5At9VW5Od96w_dEsKiz-z_Gqg88
In only a few days young men from all over the country will sign a commitment to one school or another. The hard work of athletes, families, coaches, and teachers will pay off. May they all follow their hearts and find that the dreams that they have for themselves are greater than they ever imagined, and for those who don’t sign but still have hopes of playing at the college level, may those young men not give up on their dreams but perhaps find another road that takes them where they want to go.