Every college football season thousands of high school athletes make recruiting visits to college campuses across the nation. Some kids come in with a lot of fanfare and gather huge followings of fans seeking updates, while others kind of sneak in under the radar and yet the result is the same...the university tries to sell themselves to a teenager.
My son is fortunate enough to have excelled on the football field enough to at least get some interest from a few schools. He was invited to make his first campus visit this fall and through the process our entire family learned a few things about college football recruiting. For example, did you know that it cost $70 to be a college recruit?
We were first introduced to this school back in July. My son had been invited to a prospect combine which is a one day camp in which you are measured, weighed, tested and then given the opportunity to showcase your skills in non-contact drills. After one of his individual workouts my son was pulled aside by the head coach just to chat about school, life and football. In that conversation the coach invited him to come back this fall for an official visit.
We had emailed the date of the weekend that we'd like to visit and began to make our preparations. My son would be allowed three tickets to the game so naturally it would be mom and dad taking this first-time journey with him. However, on the Monday before our visitation weekend we still had not heard anything back from the school or the coaching staff. Obviously this was a bit of a concern for us, so I began to read through every detail of the information website that they had provided for recruits. In doing the research (that I should have done about a month before) I discovered that in order to make an official on campus visit recruits must be registered with the NCAA, a process that cost $70.
We registered on Monday night and the updated his recruiting profile that same evening. I'm not sure if there's such a thing as a magic button or not but the next day my son's phone was blowing up from the coaching staff with messages about looking forward to seeing him that weekend. Excitement filled our house as there was now no question that the trip was still on.
Through this process I realized that parents should be given a little more credit than they get for their part in the recruiting process. We got home from our high school game just before 11:00 on Friday night, and because the university is out of state, we were up at 4:30 Saturday morning to hit the road.
We arrived on campus several hours before kickoff and checked in at the football offices. There were multiple recruits there that weekend and, after checking in, we were all gathered in the team film room to watch highlights and fill out a ton of paperwork. After a few minutes had passed the head coach came into the room and addressed the recruits. He talked about his and the schools values and then introduced the coaching staff.
Following that meeting the recruits were given time with their respective position coaches. Because my son is a quarterback we were taken by the offensive coordinator (who is also the quarterback's coach) to his office. He told us about that day's game plan and what to look for from the quarterback position. He then gave my son the opportunity to ask questions about the game, the school or anything else. They even talked about the possibility of him playing some baseball there at the school as well.
After leaving the coaching offices we were given a guided tour of the campus and then fed lunch. It did surprise me that the school was able to feed us in their cafeteria. I had fully expected them to pay for my son's meal but was also fully expecting to play for mine and my wife's. We'll chalk that little nugget up to a pleasant surprise.
Before the game my son was allowed on the field with the team for the warm-ups and then came to join mom and I in the stands for the game. It didn't go well for our hosts as they were thoroughly trounced by their opponents.
Following the game we met with the offensive coordinator one more time. I know that different coaches have different recruiting philosophies but I have to say that I appreciated the angle they took with my son. They had showed off their football program, talked about life and possible majors, showed off their campus and their game day atmosphere and yet never once said that they wanted my son there for football. Now, we were standing just outside of the locker room and the first question the coach asked about were my son's grades and ACT scores. He then asked my son if he could see himself playing football within their system?
In the conversation that followed that question, my son was told that they liked what they had seen from him on film and discussed coming to Oklahoma City to watch him play in person. He then told my son that while they were interested in him that but that he shouldn't expect an offer until next year, when he is a senior. He did challenge my son to compare other visits he would take and coaching staffs to this experience. He said that he would stay in touch with my son encouraged him to do the same. After the conversation he shook our hands and thanked us for coming.
We took the rest of the day to explore the community around the school, stayed the night and then drove home of Sunday. The following week my son was contacted once again by the school and told that they would, in fact, like him to come play football there.
We still have the rest of his junior year and then his senior year for him to make a decision as to where he'd like to go to college which means the possibility of more trips like this. However, it was interesting to be on the inside of one of these visits and in the weeks following things have been interesting as well. Coaches will check in on him through various methods as well as school deans and various campus clubs inviting him to look into various aspects of the school and campus. This is something else that sort of caught me off guard because I never thought about the recruiting process having more than just the coaching staff involved.