As a follow up to the Feb. 22nd College Football Recruiting meeting, Coach DeWitt offers this article written by Brendan Moore, Class of 2014 Westwood High School in Round Rock ISD near Austin. Moore wrote the article from a player's perspective of the college recruiting process. It appeared in the Austin American Statesman on Feb. 10, 2014. Here is a link to the article.
Last week, Westwood senior Brendan Moore signed with the University of Maryland.
A 6-4, 285-pound offensive lineman, Moore was the lone Texan in Maryland's 17-member signing class. A three-year letterman at Westwood, Moore earned All-Central Texas honors in 2013 after he allowed only one sack over Westwood's 440 pass attempts.
Before he signed with Maryland, Moore was asked by his mother to write an essay about his recruiting experience and the advice that he'd have for future recruits. Westwood coach Anthony Wood said that Moore worked on the essay for several months and with Moore's permission, we are publishing the essay on the Varsity News blog.
What Makes a Recruitable Athlete?
On February 5, 2014, I will sign the National Letter of Intent. Since giving my verbal commitment to the University of Maryland last June, I’ve been asked questions like, “What’s the secret?” or “How do I become a recruitable Division I athlete?” and “What should I expect in the process?”
While talent and size played a role in my recruitment, there are other tips I offer when I’m asked what makes a recruitable athlete.
1. Be coachable
Sometimes it’s hard, especially with the ego of a typical teenage boy, to believe that you’re not doing everything right. But on the field or court, practicing humility is as important as practicing your drills.
Spring practice in Texas is the time for recruiting coaches to visit and watch prospective recruits. In one practice, my position coach was “coaching me hard”. And while my instinct was to become defensive and do things my own way, I was raised to obey my coaches and if a coach says you are doing something wrong and asks you to do it differently, you do exactly what he says - no questions asked.
A week later, I received an offer from a school that watched that practice. I asked him why he chose me and he said, “As soon as I saw your coach yelling at you, and you responded with a “Yes, sir” then did exactly what he told you to, I knew I needed you. I want guys on my team that will not question me, that will trust my judgment.”
This was a recurring theme throughout my recruitment experience. The reality is, coaches like to coach. They want to see their players improve. And coaches want to win. They will try different techniques to make you better. As players, we need to trust in these intentions and become the clay that they can and want to mold. Being coachable will help you improve and help you develop a positive working relationship with your coaches.
2. Be realistic
I started playing youth football in the second grade and remember getting really excited about putting on pads and getting on the field. In the first meeting, the league’s organizer told all parents and kids that less than 2% of everyone in the league would play in college. I knew I wanted to be in that 2%, but the point they were trying to make was that the players and parents should have realistic expectations. Youth football should be fun, give kids an opportunity to learn, get some exercise, and understand what it’s like to be part of a team. Not everyone will play after high school, but that’s ok. There are other benefits to participation.
At the onset of my recruiting experience, I was invited to several junior days and unofficial visits. What became apparent at the time was, standing at 6’3 and weighing 245 pounds, I was a small left tackle. I became all too familiar with the full body once-over, greetings that involved feeling up my shoulders and comments about my backside. I’ve joked with people saying that I know how a pretty girl feels. But compared to other left tackles, I wasn’t passing what they refer to in recruiting as “the eyeball test.”
The reality is, Division I football programs are looking for 6’7 or 6’8 tackles. And while I’m a firm believer in controlling my own destiny, I can’t will myself to grow 4 inches in a few months. So instead of getting my hopes up with schools that were looking specifically looking for tackles, I focused on the schools that could use a fast guard or center and emergency tackle.
This isn’t to say there aren’t outliers, but if your dream is to play in college, be realistic about how attractive you can be to a college program based on your talent and physical attributes.
3. Let there be no question
Coming from a family of athletes and coaches, I knew better than to come home and complain about external forces holding me back. In our household it’s called a victim mentality. My mom has always made it clear that she would never walk into the coaches' office to negotiate my playing time. It was my job to show the coaches and my teammates what I had to offer and to let there be no question that I was the best player for the job.
In the first few weeks of my sophomore year on the varsity squad, I was second on the depth chart and my playing time was limited to the point after kick. I wanted so badly to be a starter, but knew I had to earn it. Instead of complaining to anyone who would listen about my playing time, I had to let there be no question that I belonged on the field. So I practiced harder, got stronger, got faster, hustled in every drill, and listened carefully to my coaches on the field and in the film room. A few weeks later, I had earned a starting position.
My head coach, Anthony Wood tells all of his players at the beginning of the season, “I’m going to put the best 11 guys on the field - not the best 10 guys and you.” And he really means it. It is a player’s responsibility to show their coaches and teammates that they are the best player for a position. No one is entitled to have a starting position. You need to earn it - day in and day out.
Don’t ask your coaches for more playing time or rationalize your lack of playing by telling yourself that the coach plays favorites. Do something about it. Show him by finishing every block, completing every pass, running every route, doing everything in your power to prove that you are, in fact, the best player in your position.
Let there be no question.
4. Be invaluable
It’s easy to get pigeon-holed into a position at a very young age. We call youth football “Daddy-ball” because dads volunteer to coach their kids' teams. I have the utmost respect for dads that will give their time to ensure that kids like me can play at a young age. But let’s face it, kids of coaches often play skill positions like quarterback or receiver. I’ve always wanted to be that kid who throws or catches a pass in the end zone with the crowd cheering me on, but I was a pretty big kid and the obvious position for me was on the line. So I played on the line and decided that if that’s where they were going to put me, I’ll be the best lineman they’d ever seen.
After my pop warner coach (and now close family friend) saw my potential and work ethic, he started to move me around to see where I might also be able to play. They rotated me from the line to linebacker, running back, tight end and defensive end. I think I even played corner one spring. Instead of fighting with the coaches about where I would play, I embraced the fact that I had much to learn and if I could learn every position on the field, I’d be a well-rounded player. I’d be the utility knife for the team - an instrument that could be used in any situation, in any capacity. I’d be invaluable.
Becoming invaluable isn’t being arrogant. And it’s not being the best player on the team. It’s about being prepared and willing to do or be anything your team needs you to be. Even as I prepare for next year, I’ve never played center in a game situation, but that doesn’t stop me from snapping daily - just to be prepared in case I need to step in as a center at the University of Maryland.
Look to every opportunity as a means to make yourself invaluable. It will not only help you become a well-rounded player, it may increase your odds of playing based on your team’s needs.
5. Become familiar with the recruiting process
At the beginning of the recruitment process, I did some research on what to expect. A great resource we found was a calendar that listed all of the dates and NCAA rules for recruiting activity. Becoming familiar with the rules and dates relieved some stress for me because it helped me understand what coaches could and could not do.
For example, coaches aren’t allowed to do anything but informally greet you in some visits. They also have a limited number of times they can visit your school. And I learned on my way to an unofficial recruiting visit that even if you are just asking for directions to the campus, coaches can’t text or call you back.
Knowing there are rules in place eased my mind because sometimes you wonder why no one is calling or coming to practices. And then there’s the period I like to refer to as the full court press - where you need to carve out a few hours each night because they all want to build relationships with you in a short amount of time. They will friend you on Facebook, send email and call you in an effort to build rapport and learn more about you.
It’s important to realize that they are evaluating you, but you should also be evaluating them. Keep in mind that you will be spending the next 4-5 years at a school and in a football program. Ask questions that will help you make your decision if they offer. And when you are communicating with coaches, put your best foot forward, but be honest.
Finally, if a school decides not to give you an offer or not to pursue you - even if you’ve been speaking with them for months, don’t take it personally. I did. One of the first schools to show interest decided not to make an offer. At first, I took it very personally and wondered what it was that they didn’t like. It wasn’t a school that we would have considered for academics, but we started to buy into the program. But after several months there was no offer, and soon all communications ceased.
It wasn’t easy to accept that a team that spent so long getting to know me, didn’t want me. But in retrospect, it helped me understand the process better. I wasn’t a good fit for their program. And I had to find the best program for me, which is why I chose the University of Maryland.
And just as an additional note about understanding the process, don’t burn bridges. Whether they give you an offer or not, be thankful that they spent the time to get to know you because you never know where you will meet them in the future.
6. Be wary of recruiting services
In my junior year, we received several solicitations from recruiting services promising to provide visibility and exposure to college coaches. Before your parents make that investment, be sure to first explore your options closer to home.
I was very fortunate in that Coach Wood was very involved with my recruitment, was there to answer any questions I had and provided me with valuable advice throughout the process. While we didn’t enlist the help of the recruiting services, I can’t imagine that a service would understand an athlete more than his coach or designated recruiting coordinator.
Your head coach can also help you to be realistic about where they see you (or don’t see you) at the next level. If you are serious about making yourself attractive to college recruiters, instead of trying to navigate the waters around your coach at the end of your senior season and complaining that he doesn’t want to help you, schedule some time to have a conversation with him early in your junior year. Discuss what it takes to be a recruitable athlete and humbly ask your coach where he sees you today and what it would take to play at the next level. Listen, take notes, and above all, be prepared to listen to their advice and put in the work over the next two years.
Your coach can be your biggest advocate in the recruiting process. When a college coach comes to campus, it’s not uncommon for them to ask your head coach who they should be watching. Because high school coaches also want to put their best foot forward, and because they are also building or nurturing their own relationships with college recruiting coaches, be one of the players that your coach wants to promote.
I’d imagine it’s easy to promote a player that has good work ethic, grades and talent. In contrast, it would be hard for coaches to promote a player who is a grade risk, is a problem off the field or has a bad attitude.
7. Keep it clean in social media
I don’t have a Twitter account, but do have a Facebook account which I (somewhat) willingly allow my mom to monitor. Why give up my privacy and allow her that visibility into my life? Because I want to ensure that anything I say online (or in person for that matter) is something that would not embarrass my family or coaches.
On a couple of occasions, I’ve deleted questionable posts and offered apologies because of something I’ve posted. They weren’t bad posts, but could be perceived as inappropriate.
The truth is, we live in a digital age where online rants, cyber bullying and general disrespectful behavior are becoming the norm. What I don’t think kids fully realize is that they are leaving a permanent digital footprint with every tweet, post and comment.
Several of the recruiting coaches have told me that they monitor social media to get a sense of the player. One coach even called me and started to talk about heavy metal bands. I had no idea what he was talking about when he said he was having a great “Metallica Monday” and I was so confused. But it soon became clear that he had friended the wrong Brendan Moore. He even admitted that before he called, he wasn’t quite sure that I would be a fit for his program based on the Facebook page.
Prospective recruits, it’s not just the NSA that is monitoring online activity. If you engage in social media, you are giving college football coaches, the media, future employers and the parents of the next girl you date a first impression of you. Be real and true to yourself, and put your best foot forward. Keep it clean. And keep it classy.
8. Keep up with school
The value of an education is important to me and I am very excited about going to the University of Maryland. But I can’t with clear conscience say that I have always been dedicated to my studies.
Let’s face it, as an athlete I had a 6:45 a.m. start for morning practice, then school, film at lunch, then another workout. After dinner and at 8 p.m., I’m beat and the last thing I want to do is homework or study. I really just want to play video games, socialize with my friends and sleep.
As a student-athlete, I found it hard to prioritize my time. I saw the other kids around me with free time and I had none. I fell into the trap of making my own free time. I missed assignments, didn’t come prepared for tests, and disappointed my teachers. That led to arguing with my parents and getting grade-monitored by my coaches. The problem was, I was falling behind and didn’t know how to recover.
And then I realized that free time comes at a cost. I wasn’t an ordinary student. I’m a student-athlete and time management is critical. My uncle always told me, “Put first things first.” Now, instead of delaying the inevitable, I get my work done first because you never know what’s going to pop up later. And I try to keep up with homework as it’s assigned instead of procrastinating and leaving it to chance that I won’t be busy before it’s due. This is a work-in-progress.
Although not stellar, my grades and SAT scores contributed to my recruitment. Teams that may have considered me a little too small for a tackle took a closer look because of my grades. I’ve received early admission to the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and am on track to graduate from Westwood High School, one of the top-ranked high schools in the state of Texas, with a 3.6 GPA and almost a semesters worth of college credit through AP classes and exams.
Learn to keep up with school early. You don’t want to play catch up in your junior and senior years. By then, it may be too late.
9. Know before you commit
The final weeks before signing day seem like a frenzy. College football staffs are keeping close to their recruits to ensure they don’t get “flipped” by lurking teams. Recruits who committed early in the process want to take official visits to other schools. I won’t judge or blame them, but I will say that it is not the advice I received.
My experience won’t be the same for everyone, but I will say when I made my commitment to the University of Maryland, I was certain it was a mutual fit. With an eye for talent, Coach Brian Stewart, defensive coordinator for Maryland and my recruiting coach, scouted me early last year. We took our time getting to know one another and what I loved about Coach Stu was that he kept it real. With other coaches, it felt like grown men sucking up to teenagers. Now, nearly a year later, he’s like a part of our family.
In my first unofficial visit to Maryland, the director of football recruiting Ryan Steinberg coordinated an informative visit for us. We toured the campus, met with professors in the business school, spoke with people in the honors program, met the rest of the coaching staff, spoke with a few new recruits and spent some time with tutors and the director of the academic center. I also got to shake head coach Randy Edsall’s hand and spent some time getting to know him.
By the end of the visit, I wanted to verbally commit. But we came home and took a few days to consider the other schools I visited and knew, without a doubt, that I wanted to spend my next five years at Maryland.
Even through coaching changes, my decision has not wavered. Coaching changes, like bosses, are a way of life. But by understanding all of the reasons you commit to a school and program, it will help muffle the inevitable surrounding noise after you’ve made your commitment.
10. Be a man of character
Less than a year ago, I didn’t know if I had the talent to play Division I football. After receiving some attention from a few college coaches and speaking with my high school coach, the prospect of a scholarship offer was looking positive.
I’ll be the first to admit, when the offers started coming in I let the attention get to my head. In doing so, my grades were started to fall, the relationships with my family and coaches became slightly strained, and I generally did not feel like the “Brendan” that everyone supported. I wasn’t displaying the character that people expected from me.
I’m fortunate to have a support network of family and coaches that are able to help me course-correct when they see me going down the wrong path. They teach and inspire me to be a better person. Regardless of where football takes me, like my mom, Coach Wood, Coach Stu and Coach Edsall, I aspire to be a person of great character.
American evangelist Dwight L. Moody wrote, “Character is who we are in the dark.”
At the end of the day, we are all responsible for our character - in good times and in bad. In a few months, I will start the next phase of my life as a University of Maryland student-athlete and I will be solely accountable for my actions. I know there will be challenges, but I also know what it is to be a man of character and I know what is expected of me.