Going into my senior year of high school, I was starting to think about the hard decision that I would have to make in choosing the right college to continue playing football. Would it be Notre Dame or UCLA. I expected there to be a few other big players, but those were my top two choices. Do I go and play for Notre Dame and its elite program (at the time.) Or do I follow my calling to go out west to California and play for the Bruins. Both offered so many positives...
I went to high school in Hampton, Va. The Hampton Crabbers, yes, the Crabbers, were a power house football team that consistently found itself in the state championship. I was All-State kicker two years in a row. We had won the state championship my sophomore and junior years.
However, we lost in the state finals my senior in a very close game to T.C. Williams (Remember the Titans.) So, I thought that the schools would be calling me non stop once the "contact period" began. So, I waited....and waited...and waited. They never called. The national signing day came and went. I was still without a college to attend.
I was completely unaware of how the recruiting process worked. I thought that if I kicked well and that our team was great, the rest would take care of itself. My parents didn't have a clue either. They just wanted to see me get a college education and hopefully see me kick at a few games. I found myself in the same situation that many student-athletes find themselves. I wasn't being heavily recruited, but I knew that I wanted to play at the next level.
What was I going to do? Where was I going to go?
Fortunately, I ended up walking on at the University of Virginia. My coach, Mike Smith, had a big role in getting me there. I sometimes wonder if he funneled me there. I had a few smaller schools interested in me, but all of a sudden they stopped calling. I wasn't sure what happened. Why did they stop calling? I think that he told them that I wasn't interested.
Some coaches are great resources for their athletes. Most are not. However, there are many resources available today to help YOU to be pro-active in your search. One of them can be found at http://www.ncaastudent.org/.
There are recruiting services out there that offer to help find you scholarships, but at a high cost. Then they end up giving you a booklet and proceed to tell you that in order to get a scholarship you have to do everything that is in the booklet. What's the secret inside this book? YOU!
By using the work ethic that has allowed you to perform well on the field, you have to work hard off the field to find the right college. You need to take control of your future.
The recruiting process can be complex if you let others control it for you. However, you can simplify it by doing research. The internet is a great way to find valuable information. You can find the schools, their athletic programs and in most cases the necessary contact info for the coaches.
Here is what I recommend that you do:
Choose your dream schools, realistic schools and fall back schools (Some may overlap)
Ask yourself, if I wasn't playing a sport, would I want to go to that school? (Remember, there is an off-season)
Find out the situation for your position at those schools
Is the starter a senior?
What about the back ups?
How many people on the roster play your position?
Make sure that you have video ready to show them
Call the coach (You make the call, not your parents)
Prove to that coach that you are a great fit for their program
Be assertive and keep in contact (squeaky wheel gets the oil)
We all dream about going to a top ranked athletic program. Maybe you can go to one, but will you play? Find the college where you can play for 3-4 years and get a solid education. That positive experience will last a lifetime.
I wasn't heavily recruited out of high school and I wasn't drafted in the NFL. However, with some hard work, luck and resolve, I was able to get a great education and play in the NFL for 9 seasons.