It was during Christmastime a decade ago that Mesa Desert Ridge football coach Jeremy Hathcock sat with quarterback Clay Busch to send out 100 tapes to schools across the country.
“We got three calls back with offers,” Hathcock said. “That’s how it worked.”
Today, Hathcock has a different role to play in the recruiting game. He’s a Twitter adviser who retweets his players’ Hudl highlights and helps craft thank-you posts to college coaches. In return, the timeline tells how many offers an athlete is getting and from where – further piquing scouts’ interests.
Maybe another door opens to a better offer on the table.
“If my kids aren’t posting and the kids next door are, I’m doing mine a disservice,” Hathcock said. “If Johnny, who I really like, is not saying he’s getting offered, and then there’s Bobby, who says he has five offers, it looks like Bobby is the better player. Could not be entirely true, but that’s marketing.”
Direct messaging on social media replaced letters and phone calls as the main line of communication. It’s how long snapper Adam Bay, a Wisconsin commit, kicked off the recruiting process. His 1,059 followers include Wisconsin football operations directors, recruiters, position coaches, beat writers and fellow Badger commits.
“I thought it was going to be emails and texting,” said Bay, who decommitted from Missouri in favor of Wisconsin. “But 95 percent of it was through Twitter and keeping my profile clean for the coaches to see.”
Bay created his handle @LongSnapper42 the summer before his junior year as a place to post regular workout updates and his best highlights. From there, he followed coaches and reached out to them as an introduction. Some responded, others didn’t, and it opened up a line to Missouri head coach Barry Odom.
He announced his commitment to Missouri in an Aug. 26 tweet.
“I followed about 1,000 coaches and DM’d about half of them,” Bay said. “It was long process, but it was definitely worth it. Realizing how Twitter was just growing bigger and bigger throughout the years, it was just something I had to do.”
But Wisconsin, which he said was originally his No. 1 school in the summer, came back with an offer.
In an Oct. 30 tweet, Bay announced his decision to flip and go the #OnWisconsin route. In December, he posted a picture with special teams coordinator Chris Haering who made an in-home visit.
There’s a thought process that goes into the recruiting tweet. Hathcock said he encourages a potential Division I prospect to go farther than using the 140-character limit to say that he is “#Blessed.”
“This is a learn-on-the-go thing,” Hathcock said. “What’s going to be the most meaningful? Something less arrogant, but yet something along the lines, ‘Hey Coach, thanks for believing in me.’ ”
College recruiters dig deeper than an athlete’s timeline. Followers and followings are inspected. Photos and likes are used to judge off-the-field character.
“They’re looking at your friends, your friends’ friends,” Hathcock said. “Because if you happen to smoke weed, or whatever, you’re not going to post it yourself. But it’s your friend’s friend that has the photo.”
Bay’s profile now features Badger athletics updates and retweets of his friends’ committing announcements. His cover photo is the Camp Randall stadium. He doesn’t follow close to a thousand coaches anymore. He doesn’t need to.
“Twitter can tell more about them more than I can,” Hathcock said.