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.
He just finished his 39th season coaching college football by leading his team to back-to-back National Championships. He has three, now (1991, 2016 and 2017). He’s been awarded the AFCA National Coach of the Year four times. He’s the winningest active coach in all of college football. His 316 wins make him the winningest football coach in NAIA history. He’s already a member of more hall of fames than I have time to list. And, as a self-described “old school” coach, he has a Twitter account that he’s still trying to figure out! So, who is he? He’s Kevin Donley, head football coach for the University of Saint Francis (Ind.).
This week, I had the great privilege of sitting down with one of college football’s all-time greatest coaches. From what he’s looking for during the recruiting process, to what you can do to get his attention, here is what USF’s Coach Donley had to say.
Q: Physical talent aside, what are you looking for in a recruit?
A: Like any program, we are going to bring in the most talented kids we can. That’s the most obvious part of the recruiting process. But, what I’ve learned over the years, is that physical talent will only take you so far. There’s got to be more to the story. So, we really try to focus on recruiting young men that can see the bigger picture. We want kids that have a goal for their lives, beyond the football field. Don’t get me wrong, football needs to play a major role in in the life of any young man we recruit. Because, it takes serious passion to commit to playing at the collegiate level. But, you should want to do something more than just go play a football game. It should be important to you to be good at life, no matter what you’re doing.
Q: How can a recruit let you know he is interested in your program?
A: Contact us. Pick up the phone, send us an email or Hudl video. Tell us about yourself and what’s important to you. We want to see kids face-to-face, too. We want to meet you and shake your hand. We want to meet your mom and dad. We genuinely want to hear about you and what you want to not only do for the next four years, but for the rest of your life. The business of recruiting is all about relationships. I think high school kids are surprised to see that we are just as interested in learning about them, as they are in learning about us. So, focus on building relationships with the people you want to build relationships with. It’s as simple as that.
Q: What advice do you have for the high school athlete not receiving much attention from college coaches?
College recruiting is like applying for a job. The whole idea of getting your resume in the hands of the right people is what this is all about. Because if the right people see your resume, then you’re most likely going to get to the interview. That’s what you’re hoping for. That’s the goal. Interviewing adds the human element to the recruiting process. It helps you see the things that maybe you can’t see through film. It gives you a much more accurate assessment of who you’re dealing with. When we talk with a recruit on the phone or he comes to meet with us on campus, it’s an interview. You’re interviewing us and our program, and we’re interviewing you. Ultimately, we both want to determine whether this is going to be a good fit, or not. So, if you’re not getting much attention, focus on making sure the right people are seeing your resume.
Q: How has USF been able to achieve so much success over the years?
A: Well, we’re in the people business and in most successful businesses, it’s about people and the relationships with people. It’s about getting your group to buy-in and become the best that they can be. You know, there are so many things that are outside of your control. That’s true for life, and football the same. Specific to our program, there’s only so much you can do with 24 full scholarships. Those are the numbers and there’s nothing we can do about that.
But, regardless of “uncontrollables” like scholarships, one big thing that we’ve done well here is we’ve focused on the things that are in our control. We find the best players that we can find. We find the best people we can find. And we do the best job we can in developing the guys that we do bring into this program. I think we’re really good at maximizing performance. That’s not an easy thing and it’s a never-ending process. There is no offseason to success.