USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Calling Vince Kehres the “right” coach for the Mount Union football program doesn’t quite do him justice. You see, Kehres grew up in Alliance, Ohio. Alliance is home to roughly 22,000 people. Located in northeast Ohio, Alliance is also home to The University of Mount Union. So naturally, Vince Kehres grew up watching Raider football. Wait, there’s more!
Because, after a standout prep career, Kehres then decided to further his playing career for his hometown school. From 1994-1997, he earned four letters as a defensive end for the Raiders, and was a member of Mount Union’s 1996 and 1997 National Championship teams.
Then, in 2000, a few years removed from his playing days, Vince Kehres was hired on as an assistant coach for the Raiders. In 2005, he was named defensive coordinator and in 2013, Mount Union named Vince Kehres their head football coach.
In five seasons leading the Raiders, Coach Kehres has a record of 70-4. He’s won 4 conference championships and 2 NCAA Division III National Championships, most recently claiming the title in 2017. And oh, by the way, Larry Kehres, the legendary coach who guided Mount Union to 11 National Championships from 1993-2012… yeah, that’s Vince’s dad.
Vince Kehres isn’t the “right” coach for Mount Union. No. Vince Kehres is the “perfect” coach for the Mount Union Raiders.
This week, I sat down with Coach Kehres to learn what it takes to be recruited at one of the truly elite programs in all of college football. Here is what he had to say.
Q: How should a recruit let you know he wants to play for Mount Union?
A: I value a young man that’s looking for us, as much as we’re looking for him. It means something to me when a recruit can make it personal for us. We get a lot of emails from recruits, every day. And, a lot of the emails are all kind of the same, in the sense that it’s a kid sending an email to Mount Union, along with a hundred other programs.
Now, the emails that we really pay attention to, are the ones that display a knowledge of our program. When a young man can express what it would mean to him to be a part of our program, that carries some weight. It makes us feel a sense of obligation in handling that young man. The recruiting process requires a tremendous amount of communication, both from the recruit and the coaches. Through that communication, we want to gather as much accurate information on a guy, as possible. If you’re actively coming after Mount Union, we won’t overlook you. As much as we’re trying to find you, you should try to find us, too.
Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?
A: I think it all starts with knowing who you are. What’s right for you, and your circumstances. I would tell that player to get with his high school coach, and have an honest conversation. Talk about your goals. Talk about your options and get his opinion on what level he thinks would be a good fit for you. Try to walk away with a plan on what needs to happen next.
The importance of a high school coach is something that really stands out, when it comes to the recruiting process, especially for football. That’s not necessarily the case in other sports, because you have the club and summer team coaches, as well. But for football, the opinion a high school coach has on a young man carries so much weight in this process. It impacts who we add, and who we don’t. If a high school football player isn’t getting much attention at the next level, I would have him start with his coach. He’s going to have a pretty good idea on what needs to happen. Or at the very least, what direction you need to go.
Q: What are your thoughts on the impact social media has had on college recruiting?
A: Social media makes the recruiting process so much more immediate. Recruits and coaches have much easier access to each other now, than ever before. Literally, you can hear about a guy one minute, and the next, you can find anything and everything you want to find on him. Whether that’s evaluating the type of player he is by watching some game film you found online, or it’s trying to figure out the kind of a kid he is by what he’s doing on social media, the information is there. And, it’s there for both sides.
Q: What should high school athletes know about the NCAA Division III level?
A: Playing college football is tough. Regardless of the level, being a college football player is hard work. I would want every high school football player to know that you don’t just walk into a program as a freshmen, and expect to start. Take the division out of it. College football isn’t about what you think you deserve. It’s not about what you think you’re entitled to. It’s about what you earn.
I go back to the idea of effective communication. As a staff, we paint a very clear picture of what your life is going to be like playing here, going to school here. That has nothing to do with us being a Division III program. For us, recruiting isn’t about doing whatever it takes to get a guy on campus. It’s about being up front and honest about Mount Union, and our program. It’s going to be difficult. You will be held accountable. You will grind out the good days. But, if what we teach aligns with what you want, then it’s going to work out. High school athletes shouldn’t be so consumed with the division. They should be concerned with finding a school that’s the right match.
Q: Why has Mt. Union been one of the most successful programs in college football history?
A: My dad would always tell the team, “We’re in preparation mode, not celebration mode.” That’s something that has always resonated and stuck around here. Sure, it feels good to win games. And, it feels great to win the last game of the year. We’ve been fortunate enough to win 13 National Championships, here. But, we just don’t spend a lot of time celebrating before it’s time to get on to the next. The next offseason, the next recruiting visit, the next team. I think it’s just in the fabric of this program to constantly be preparing for what comes next. That’s probably why we’ve had some success.