Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, Calif.) defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is the top-ranked player in the ESPN 300 for 2019 and, quite naturally, with that appointment comes an inordinate amount of attention from every high-profile college coaching staff in the country.
So, no, he’s not wide-eyed when Florida State coach Willie Taggart shoots him a text just checking in, and he’s not kicking himself when he misses a call from Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“You get used to talking to the coaches,” Thibodeaux said. “I’m not the guy who needs to talk to the coaches all the time. I don’t get surprised like that anymore.”
That was until he learned that one school was sending the same fawning texts to another elite recruit and simply changing the name at the top.
It’s a practice that elite recruits around the country contend is as common as tackles and touchdowns; most charge it to the proverbial game that is college football recruiting.
“At first I was like ‘wow,’ but, yeah, they do it all the time,” Thibodeaux said. “I called them out for it on social media.”
Thibodeaux said that when the coach in question saw his post he attempted to clear things up. The coach told him that they have a set number of generated texts that they send out to recruits just to stay in touch.
“He said the follow-up texts are from them personally,” Thibodeaux said. “It’s like the recruiting letters that we all get. It’s not personal to us really. But, for me, I don’t like when coaches are blowing up my phone. If we’re not really talking about something we don’t have to talk. Definitely, don’t send me a spam text. I gave him a pass, though.”
St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) cornerback Chris Steele said he’s noticed that text-gate is a common practice for certain schools, but the flipside is that other schools are open about who they’re focusing on and where other recruits fall in their pecking order.
“Most coaches are straight with me, but some still send those mass texts,” said Steele, a five-star prospect. “All of my top teams recruit me different than everyone else and it’s noticeable. I’ve experienced that more with schools outside of the group I’m focusing on. It’s all a part of the process. It’s funny though.”
Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) linebacker Owen Pappoe is in a group text with a handful of other elite players and he said they often get a good laugh out of sending screenshots of texts from coaches who send the same messages to all of them.
“You can’t do anything but laugh,” said Pappoe, who is ranked No. 1 overall among linebackers. “I just think that some of the coaches get lazy. I guess they can’t think of a way to change it up at least a little bit.”
Pappoe wouldn’t go as far as saying that he outright lost respect for schools that implemented mass texts, but rather that he gained more respect for Auburn “because they always kept it 100 percent authentic.”
“I never got one of those texts that they send to every other recruit from Auburn,” said Pappoe, who recently committed to the Tigers. “They were always straightforward with me and that was one of the things that stood out with me. That’s one of the main reasons I picked Auburn. I guess that’s like a lesson for college coaches.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY