Recruiting Column: Interview with Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun

Recruiting Column: Interview with Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Interview with Air Force football coach Troy Calhoun


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. 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.

Troy Calhoun (Photo: Air Force Athletics)

Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do. Those are the core values of the United States Air Force. Naturally, those are also the core values that Troy Calhoun demands out of the young men he recruits to play football for the Air Force Academy. And for the past 10 seasons, it’s those core values that have guided Coach Calhoun’s Falcons to nine bowl appearances, 77 total wins and an APR (Academic Progress Rate) that consistently ranks at the top of the FBS level, year-in-and-year-out. Put it this way, Air Force football produces some of the finest young men that this country has to offer.This week, I sat down with Coach Calhoun to discuss what college recruiting looks like at The Academy. Here is what he had to say.

Q: What age do you and your staff start identifying potential recruits for the Academy?

A: At the Academy, we start locking in on guys during their junior year of high school. That’s a little bit later than most division I schools, but we really need to see some semesters under their belt, academically, before we get serious with any recruit. Starting the process later allows us to see how they’ve performed in their math and science courses up to that point in their high school career. We prefer to see they’re on a path to take calculus, chemistry and physics before they get to the Academy. Additionally by their junior year, we’ll also have test scores to help us solidify our position on pursuing a recruit. Obviously, we have to be very selective with the type of young men we bring into this program because it’s just so much more than football.

Q: What does it take for a recruit to get your attention?

A: We want the guys that go to work every day. They’re the dependable and reliable guys. Every time they show up, you know what you’re going to get. We want the team captains and the guys that are just obsessive and passionate about sports, specifically the sport of football. We want leaders on the field and in the classroom. When we look at their transcripts, we don’t see a bunch of tardies and absences. Details matter to them. They have to be every day guys in all phases of life. That’s what it takes to not only play football at the Air Force Academy, but to also serve this great country.

(Photo: Chris Ferhm)

Q: What does a student-athlete control during the recruiting process?

A: You really control all of the intangibles that are a part of how you’re being evaluated. As a student-athlete, you certainly control how well you’re doing in school. You control the strength of courses you’re taking and the grades you’re achieving. You control how good of a student you are.

You also control the respect you have for other people and how hard you work. When we visit the school of a young man we’re recruiting, we’ll ask a ton of questions and get as much feedback on him as possible. From the principal to the custodian, we want to know how others perceive him. Is he treating everybody with respect? Is he kind and thoughtful? Is he among the hardest workers in the school? Being a 16-year-old kid that shows regard for others and exhibits a strong work ethic are huge indicators for us in terms of the caliber of teammate you’ll be. It reveals a level of maturity that you don’t always see in teenagers these days.

MORE FROM PLAYCED: Why academics matter

Your academic achievements, your personal code of conduct and your work ethic are all things you control. And they’ve got nothing to do with how high you jump, how big of frame you have or what kind of quick-twitch fibers you have.

Q: Are you paying attention to recruits on social media?

A: Absolutely. In fact, I would even invest more so in the screening of what occurs on social media. There are so many good indicators in regards to maturity and the respect and dignity you’re showing others. Now, you can essentially form a pretty good character opinion on a recruit before you even meet them in person. Unfortunately, all it takes is one negative post to deter a coach from recruiting you.

RECRUITING TIP: Don’t be foolish on social media

I think young men and women need to understand that there’s going to be some liability they will incur when they make a mistake on social media. And, those mistakes can not only impact your recruiting experience, they can also impact the rest of your life.

Q: What advice do you have for parents of recruits?

A: More than anything else, make sure you provide the proper perspective throughout this experience. I think it’s so important for you to help your son or daughter remained grounded through this process. Keep them focused on what really matters. Take care of school, be a good person, work hard. That starts long before becoming a college athlete even enters the picture, really. It’s so impressive as a college coach when I recruit a young man with high values. They look you in the eye. They shake your hand. They’re appreciative and humble. Those are the things that coaches are looking for and those are the things kids are learning at home.


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