A version of this story was published on freephigh.com, the Free Press’ high school journalism program in conjunction with Detroit Public Schools. Tyriq Thompson is a linebacker at Detroit King. He’s rated at three stars by rivals.com and reportedly has scholarship offers from Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin, among schools.
How unusual is it for a 17-year-old high school student to be the recipient of 90% of his household’s mail? When it comes to college football recruiting in this generation, this is the reality that hundreds of high school athletes across the country face.
If you were a high school athlete 20 years ago, the recruiting process didn’t even begin until your senior year. That idea literally has become a thing of the past.
Middle school football players who have never even stepped inside a high school classroom have been offered full athletic scholarships to major college football programs across the country.
As a recruit myself, I have found the entire recruiting process to be rewarding and thrilling, yet a tad exhausting. Getting your first piece of mail from a college is exciting and causes you to re-evaluate yourself on what you need to do to make it to the next level now that you realize it is possible. All of the years of hard work, from little league until high school, finally begin to pay off.
Mail is all fine and dandy, but you never experience real joy and utter speechlessness until you receive a phone call from your coach, telling you that you’ve earned your first scholarship offer. From then on, you begin to view every offer you receive as a blessing. You begin to get called out of class multiple times per week because coaches are coming to see you consistently. This is exciting for some but vaguely routine for many.
Detroit King assistant football coach Terel Patrick said he thinks recruiting has changed drastically from when he was a standout athlete at King.
“When I was going through the process, it was frustrating and I felt like I had no help. It was new to me and my family,” Patrick said. “The process starts so early now, so that makes it last longer. It can be encouraging or discouraging to kids. It’s encouraging to the younger ones that are getting the attention from colleges, so they work harder. But it can be discouraging to the younger ones who aren’t getting attention that early. They feel like they’re not up to par or special.
“As a high school coach, I try to keep it light on my kids so they don’t lose themselves. It’s a tough process, and it causes a lot of headaches and anxiety. But the kids get a chance to play football on the next level while earning an education for free, so it’s worth it.”
As a recruit, the stress of the process can take a toll on you, but like Patrick said, it is worth it.
Class of 2015 running back Mike Weber of Detroit Cass Tech recognizes the pros and cons. (Editor’s note: Weber is a four-star recruit, per Rivals, and has scholarship offers from U-M, MSU, Nebraska, Ohio State, Tennessee, Wisconsin and others.)
“The most exciting part is really being able to experience different colleges and campuses and getting the chance to meet new people,” Weber said. “I’d like to see the NCAA change a lot of rules that are set which stop us from experiencing the full effect of the recruiting process and our decisions. Taking earlier official visits would be cool, and coaches should be able to call us to show how important we really are to them to play for their university. A lot of rules are set that minimize the full effect.”
Some of these rules have made recruiting even more watered-down than before. Although coaches are now able to contact recruits via social media, it has taken recruiting to a whole new level. Once a university gets a hold of your Twitter handle or Facebook name, your inbox is flooded with generic “insert name here” messages.
Paper recruiting mail is starting to stray from that format, though. The usual “insert name here” letters are being replaced with these new “insert photo here” graphics. Honestly, when you’re 17 years old, it’s mesmerizing to see your headshot Photoshopped onto a piece of paper.
The current state of recruiting gives off an aura of insincerity. Maybe it’s the best that these programs can manage with so many restrictions. Maybe it’s the NCAA’s fault, but that is a different article altogether.