Skydiving? Walking Dead? Creative commitment videos raising the bar

Skydiving? Walking Dead? Creative commitment videos raising the bar

Signing Day

Skydiving? Walking Dead? Creative commitment videos raising the bar

By

Deontay Anderson knew he was about to try something never done before to announce his college commitment to Ole Miss on National Signing Day last February.

But he knew he also needed a strategy to make it happen: Dad signed off and mom, well …

“My mom didn’t find out until I actually went to the place and did it so couldn’t say anything at that point,” he said.

You could not have blamed Anderson’s mom if she wasn’t too keen on the plan.

After all, Anderson was jumping out of plane and announcing his commitment while skydiving in a move that had everyone in the recruiting world buzzing.

“It was so different and no one had ever done it like that before so when the idea came to me, I got the agreement from my dad and it was on from there,” Anderson, who was the No. 2 safety recruit in the Class of 2016, recalled.

“I would absolutely do it that way again … I’ve seen some great ones recently. I hope people can still be creative, but no one is topping mine. I would love to see it happen, though.”

The wave of high-end commitment videos has been spurred by Bleacher Report, which produced Anderson’s video, but the challenge is matching player and concept. For those players, the video can become a lasting memory, a status symbol and a means to attract attention.

For others, though, the traditional act of selecting from team hats at their school is all they need.

“I would tell other recruits don’t listen to all the people who said this is too much just commit and have fun with it,” said Adrian Ealy, an Oklahoma commit offensive tackle whose video was modeled after Reservoir Dogs.

“Not too many people have the chance to do what you are doing so live the moment and make it a memory so you can share it with your future family.”

In Ealy’s video, he searches the streets of New Orleans for a package that has his decision. As he goes, though, a group of “Recruiter Dogs” try to convince him why their school is the right choice. He said the video took him about six hours.

“People bring it up to me all the time telling me they believe I had the best of all time and how it’s going to be hard to top that,” Ealy said. “I watched the movie and I thought it was very funny so I thought the video was going to come out great.”

When Kai-Leon Herbert announced his commitment in July, Bleacher Report initially brought him a concept based on The Bachelor. The idea called for him to go on dinner dates with the mascots from the schools he was considering. “I really didn’t know anything about that show,” he said.

The replacement ended up being a detailed video based on The Walking Dead in which he escapes zombies in the woods representing his potential schools and then beating each of them down in dramatic encounters. Having conquered five foes, he then heads into a clearing and opens his sweatshirt to reveal Michigan clothes and says, “Go Blue.”

“I had only watched a couple of seasons but got hooked on it,” he said. “When they told me the idea, I thought it was kinda cool. No one had done that before so it was good.”

Where it gets dicey is that Herbert will be signing a letter of intent on Wednesday with Miami. The four-star offensive tackle from American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) decommitted from Michigan on Jan. 22 and committed to Miami (Fla.) three days later.

Most are filmed with alternate endings well in advance of the release in case the player has not made up his mind yet. But once it’s out there, the video lasts even if the commitment doesn’t.

Wide receiver Tyjon Lindsey from Super 25 champion Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) is another player with a video that no longer matches his destination. He and St. Thomas Aquinas WR Trevon Grimes (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) did a Bleacher Report video in which they both picked Ohio State after a dodgeball game. Grimes is still heading to Columbus; Lindsey changed his mind and will sign with Nebraska.

“That commitment video stuff can wait due to your mind changing,” Lindsey says now. “I advise all kids should wait until signing day if they’re going to verbally commit. There really is no point in verbally committing early and I have now realized that through the years.”

Defensive end Jaelan Phillips is the No. 1 player in the composite rankings and already is enrolled at UCLA after a stellar career at Redlands East Valley (Redlands, Calif.). When he picked the Bruins, he did it without a video.“Honestly for me, in the recruiting processes, everything was about staying humble and low key,” he said. “I didn’t want to be the type of recruit that drew a bunch of negative attention, so everything I did was respectful and honest. I think commitment videos are fun and awesome, but personally, I just thought it would be more proper to simply make the announcement. My dad had a big say in that as well.”

But Phillips says he would “recommend kids do commitment videos.”

“If you don’t have fun with the process, it can be stressful and tedious,” he said. “Being able to make a cool video to announce where you’re going is a good way to express yourself and enjoy it at the same time.”

Without a video of his own, Phillips made a cameo in a recruiting video. Rahyme Johnson, a four-star outside linebacker from Salesian (Los Angeles) and Martin Andrus, a three-star defensive tackle from Los Angeles Senior, did a joint video modeled after Old School with Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn.

Phillips and fellow UCLA commit Jaylan Shaw abduct Johnson and Andrus and throw them in the van. The scene ends in front of the Rose Bowl with the tagline, “Welcome home, boys” and Johnson and Andrus proclaiming their commitments.

Phillips and Johnson plan to be roommates at UCLA.

“When I told him about the video I was doing, he was fired up about it,” Johnson said. “I had no doubts at all in my mind when the idea was brought to me. I loved it from the get-go and was really excited about it.

“As ballplayers we’ve put in countless hours of hard work to get to this point in our lives and it definitely is a major achievement. I advise to just have fun with it and make it special so it’s something you can tell your grandkids about.”

The videos are released on the player’s social media accounts and Bleacher Report and often are timed to an in-school announcement or event.

When Walker Little, the nation’s No. 3 offensive tackle from Episcopal (Bellaire, Texas) made his announcement, he opted for a ceremony at his school. A highlight video aired in a filled auditorium as Little shared the podium with his parents.

After the video, Little chose from among hats for Stanford and Texas, putting the Stanford hat atop his head to cheers. He then did a local television interviews.

“I wanted to announce my decision in front of my friends, family and school,” he said. “I wanted to be able to thank the people who got me to this point publicly. I never really thought about doing it any other way.

“I think people should just do what you feel comfortable with, but make sure one way or another you thank those who help you with your success.”

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports