Recruiting Column: Interview with Marian University football coach Mark Henninger

Recruiting Column: Interview with Marian University football coach Mark Henninger

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Interview with Marian University football coach Mark Henninger


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 This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.

(Photo: Marian Athletics)

(Photo: Marian Athletics)

The final interview in our summer series featuring a national championship coach from the 2015-2016 school year is with Mark Henninger of Marian University in Indianapolis. Competing in three of the last four national championship games with two titles to their credit, Marian Football is widely considered one of the top NAIA programs in the country, year after year. So what does it take to play for a program like this? Coach Henninger tells us, “Much more than just a good football player!” That seems to be “the” common theme to becoming a national champion.

Here is what Coach Henninger has to say to recruits all over the country.

Q: What advice would you have for a high school athlete interested in your program that you have not yet identified?

A: That athlete needs to figure out a way to make that point to either me or one of the coaches on our staff, first and foremost. I would tell that young man to put together a short email that includes all of the information that we, as a staff, need to see. Be direct and to the point about your intentions and what you are looking to accomplish. Give us a reason to be interested in you both as a football player and as a student. We want to know why you have interest in Marian. Why do you want to come to school here in Indianapolis? What’s the draw? Make it easy for our staff to understand exactly what you have to offer.

Q: How critical is game film or highlight videos in the initial stages of the recruiting process?

A: It’s such a critical component to a kid getting that initial attention, especially to the guys we don’t know about or haven’t seen, yet. Quite honestly, it serves as an introduction for those guys. There are so many things you can pull from watching a player’s game film. I really believe you can tell if a kid is passionate about playing football just by watching some film on him. You can read body language, athleticism and even what type of a teammate they are. For example, if you are a defensive player and the ball goes away from you, are you still pursuing? Those types of things show up on film. Those are the things that will make us want to recruit a young man, further.

Q: When evaluating a recruit, whose opinion do you consider outside of your coaching staff?

A: Bottom line, the alpha and the omega of that list is the high school coach or high school coaches. Not just your high school coach but the coach of your opponent, your rival school across town. When we are out recruiting at a school, we aren’t just talking about the players from that school. We are asking your opponents what they think of you and what kind of a player they see you as. That’s what we do to try to best understand if you will truly fit in with what we are trying to accomplish at Marian. The opinions within that high school coaching community go a long way for a recruit.

Q: What is your advice to student-athletes going through the recruiting process?

A: I think the number one question that a student-athlete should ask before making a college commitment is, “Would you want to go to that school if you weren’t playing that sport?” Yes, playing your sport is a big part of your college experience, but it isn’t everything. Really make sure that, academically, things line up for you at the schools you are most interested in. There are so many other opportunities and experiences outside of your sport that come with college life. The more of those things you feel good about, the better off you will be.

I would also tell student-athletes to enjoy the process! College recruiting is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it’s something that is really a reward for what you have done up to this point in your career. Sometimes, I think kids just need to take a step back and appreciate what it’s all about. Be humbled and grateful to be in the position you are in!

Q: What is your advice to parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?

A: As parents, we have to remember that this is ultimately our son or daughter’s decision. This is about what they want and it’s their life. Quite honestly, they have earned the right to make the decision because their abilities got them here. That said, it’s our job as parents to help provide guidance and a sense of realism. Be realistic with their potential and be somewhat of a grounding-source to help them make sensible decisions. A lot of times, a simple conversation about what they want for their future can give them the direction they need.

(Photo: Marian Athletics)

(Photo: Marian Athletics)

Q: What does it take to win a National Championship?

A: There’s no question that you have got to have talented players. But I think the reason we were able to win a national championship was because of the team chemistry within our locker room. Our guys truly love one another. It’s a group of guys that would absolutely do anything and everything for the guy standing next to them. That’s really the foundation for team success at any level. Sure, you have to catch some breaks along the way, but there is something to be said about team chemistry. I know we hear that a lot, but knowing that’s what it takes is certainly different than actually having what it takes. It’s such an amazing experience and sure was a lot of fun!


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