KINDER, La. — In this rural farm community of about 2,400, the keeper of some of the more privileged information in college football recruiting is sitting on his grandfather’s sofa, fixated on the iPhone 5S in his hands.
There a few sighs, some nods and an occasional one-word response to an unsolicited inquiry. Other than that, when Hayes Fawcett is working, silence is preferred. There is complete focus; his eyes do not wander and his thumbs never stop touching the screen.
Fawcett is creating a photo edit.
You may not be familiar with the term, but if you follow football recruiting news on Twitter, you know what photo edits are — they can’t be missed and that’s the point of them.
A photo edit is a design made by adding some neat filters, a background, logos and text to a picture. With enhanced effect, photo edits make an athlete look like a superhero out of a comic book and they accompany a high school player’s news of a commitment or top schools list on Twitter.
In May, three of Mississippi’s best high school players shared recruiting news with photo edits.
- Clinton star and Mississippi’s top-rated prospect Cam Akers posted an edit with himself and the logos of his top 10 schools.
- Starkville four-star linebacker Willie Gay did the same when he revealed his top five.
- Columbus four-star running back Kylin Hill also tweeted a photo edit when he announced his verbal commitment to Mississippi State.
The three photo edits were unique to each athlete and they differed in style and content.
They shared one thing in common, however.
They were all made by the same person: A 15-year-old boy named Hayes Fawcett, whom none of them have ever met in person.
With 4,500 followers on Twitter (@Hayesfawcett3), Fawcett is just as popular on the internet as some of the high-profile high school football players he makes photo edits for. He started making edits when he was 12 in the usual way someone starts a new hobby; he saw something cool online and thought to himself, “Hey, I want to try that.”
Since then, his work has improved so much that he has become the go-to guy for edits. Fawcett used to ask athletes if they wanted him to make an edit for them, but nowadays it’s the players who randomly ask him.
Fawcett’s popularity surged after he made Shea Patterson’s photo edit when the five-star quarterback announced his verbal commitment to Ole Miss in February 2015. Fawcett then produced a commitment edit for Rashan Gary, the No. 1 ranked player in the nation last year.
Fawcett created 80 commitment edits last year for players across the country. He makes 12 edits a week, usually creating one or two per day. It takes Fawcett about 30 minutes to produce one, all on his phone. Last week, he received 28 requests via direct messaging on Twitter within a 24-hour span.
“Every time I log on Twitter,” Fawcett said, “I have about four messages from people asking me to do an edit.”
It’s all about status for high school recruits. If one highly recruited prospect uses a photo edit with his news, it’s a safe bet that another will want the same thing. Like how a bodybuilder wouldn’t drink just any store-brand protein formula, a generic photo edit made by someone still finding their niche, simply will just not do. So they seek out the best.
“Hayes is by far one of the best in the game,” Hill said. “Nowadays players want to commit in fashion with a dope edit and anytime somebody needs one, everybody recommends Hayes.”
Fawcett doesn’t charge any money for the edits and is satisfied with credit via shoutouts on social media.
“At this point, right now, it’s kind of a hobby for me and it gets me a lot of publicity,” Fawcett said. “I like having connections with these athletes because someday, some of them might be in the NFL.”
Yet for all the acknowledgement and appreciation shown for him by the athletes he has created photo edits for, few outside of his small hometown actually know anything about him.
So, some facts and observations: Fawcett is a bright kid — “A straight-A student,” his father, Brett, says — who plays football and baseball. He has five brothers and is the second-oldest out of the group. He is entering his freshman year at Kinder High and wants to pursue a career in sports in some capacity. Perhaps as a sports agent, Brett said.
That career would make sense.
Fawcett already has the trust of all the athletes he makes photo edits for. That confidence is essential for this operation to work. Before anyone else knows, players share with Fawcett which schools comprise their top lists and which school they are committing to.
The conversation is rather straightforward. A player asks Fawcett to do his edit and offers a deadline. Fawcett agrees and then asks for a photo of the player. The recruit sends the photo and the necessary details — which schools should be listed if it’s an edit for a top schools list or which school to include if it’s a commitment edit.
In the recruiting world, this is sacred information.
“Today, some kid from … I don’t even know where he is from, but he’s committing today and he was like 50-50 between two schools and he told me where he was going,” Fawcett said. “Then he told me, ‘Do not say anything or my dad would kill me.’”
Fawcett doesn’t need to be told.
As much as he’s the Vincent van Gogh of recruiting for his designs, he’s also the John Gotti for his ability to keep his word.
“I just know it’s important for the players to trust me,” Fawcett said. “I know if I let it out, then my editing stuff would be done.”
It just goes to show how much the edits mean to recruits.
“It’s risky,” Hill said, “but Hayes always was a man of his word so it was no worries.”https://twitter.com/WillieYRN/status/733353874128572416
Usually, Fawcett knows several days in advance which school a player is committing to because that player had already reached out to Fawcett for an edit with the idea of posting the news on a particular date and time. Many players plan specific commitment dates and they want to have their precious photo edits ready with their announcement.
The funny part is that while media outlets, especially sites such as 247Sports, Scout and Rivals, pride themselves on relaying exclusive information and have built an industry around it, it’s actually a kid who has yet to take his first high school class who holds all the scoops.
Savvy recruiting reporters know this. They try and pry information out of Fawcett. The kid reveals nothing.
“A 247 reporter once made an excuse about going to Egypt with his family at a time a kid was committing,” Fawcett said. “I still wouldn’t tell him.”https://twitter.com/lbg_nico7/status/738887331327975429
Fawcett is not interested in sharing how he makes the edits.
“He doesn’t talk much about it all,” said Fawcett’s grandfather, Ronnie Sonnier. “I don’t know a whole lot about it.”
Fawcett does all of his work on his phone.
“We got him a computer for it, but he said his phone works better,” Sonnier said. “I’d like to know the hours he got on that telephone, I’m telling you.”
That’s where all his trustworthy apps are. In Fawcett’s iPhone, there are three folders made specifically for holding his photo edit apps. After a year of mixing, matching and playing around, Fawcett settled on 15 apps last summer and hasn’t added one since. He uses 10 different apps for each photo edit. They include: Superimpose (used for masking), Phonto (used for writing text), Snapseed, Photoshop Touch and Photoshop Express.
“I can’t really tell you the rest,” Fawcett said with a straight face.
Why should he? While many others offer photo editing services — even colleges use them as a form of recruiting — it’s Fawcett who stands out. Fawcett also does photo edits for Nike’s The Opening, Under Armour and the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, which pays him $10 per edit.
“We reached out to him because the high schools players that were chosen for our game were already using him and he has a following of a who’s who in high school and college football,” said Erik Richards, national recruiting director for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “Every player I know, when he’s committing to our game or committing to a college says, ‘I’m going to get Hayes to do me an edit.’”
The summer months keep Fawcett busy, with so much recruiting news going on because of camps, visits and players wanting to wrap-up their recruitments before the football season starts. For the kid who has stayed home from school on national signing day the last three years, Fawcett wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s pretty cool,” Fawcett said, “knowing that I’m a lot younger than them and it’s a big decision of their life and I’m able to be a little part of it.”
Contact Will Sammon at 601-214-8020 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WillSammon on Twitter.