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 Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com 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.
January was an amazing month for our coach interviews. In fact, each of our three interviews featured football coaches fresh off winning a National Championship! This month, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk college recruiting with Colby Carthel (Texas A&M-Commerce, NCAA D II), Vince Kehres (Mount Union, NCAA D III) and Kevin Donley (Saint Francis, NAIA). Their insight and perspective on the college recruiting process was nothing short of phenomenal!
From understanding the different levels of college football, to what you need to do to get their attention, here is what these National Champions had to say.
Colby Carthel, Texas A&M-Commerce, NCAA Division II National Champions
Q: What should high school athletes know about the NCAA Division II level?
A: Playing football here means something. Starting here means something. This is a very high level of football and I think many high school athletes miss on that because we don’t get the same TV-time as the Division I level. Many of the guys making an impact at the D II level go on to the NFL (90 players on 2017 NFL rosters, according to NCAA.com).
It’s also important to understand that “full-rides” don’t exist at this level. We have 36 full athletic scholarships, with a roster size 3x that number. If you get a scholarship to play football at a D II school, it’s going to be a partial scholarship. That said, kids preparing to play at the next level need to be aware of those numbers. Your goal as a student-athlete should be to get the best financial aid package, possible. The kind of money you get doesn’t matter. Get what you can athletically, yes. But, be a great student. Perform your best in the classroom. Because, that will open many other financial opportunities for you.
Q: What mistakes should a student-athlete avoid during the college recruiting process?
A: The main thing coaches want out of recruits, is honesty. Be truthful with us. Be honest about your goals and what you want to get out of the recruiting process. Be honest about your injuries. When it comes to answering questions about your performance, tell the truth. Often, we see guys get so caught up in the moment. They try to be someone they’re not. And, that’s not what we want!
Here’s the deal: we are going to do our digging. If we’re serious enough to recruit you, you better believe we are going to find out exactly who you are. We’re going to talk to your coaches. We’re going to talk to your teachers. Your classmates. We’re going to check your social media. And do us a favor, don’t clean up your Twitter account. I always hear coaches telling kids to clean it up on social media. I say, don’t. Because, if you’re different to us, then you are on your Twitter feed, we want to find that out! We want to know the real you.
Vince Kehres, Mount Union, NCAA Division III National Champions
Q: What should high school athletes know about the NCAA Division III level?
A: Playing college football is tough. Regardless of the level, being a college football player is hard work. I would want every high school football player to know that you don’t just walk into a program as a freshman and expect to start. Take the division out of it. College football isn’t about what you think you deserve. It’s not about what you think you’re entitled to. It’s about what you earn.
I go back to the idea of effective communication. As a staff, we paint a very clear picture of what your life is going to be like playing here, going to school here. That has nothing to do with us being a Division III program. For us, recruiting isn’t about doing whatever it takes to get a guy on campus. It’s about being up front and honest about Mount Union, and our program. It’s going to be difficult. You will be held accountable. You will grind out the good days. But, if what we teach aligns with what you want, then it’s going to work out. High school athletes shouldn’t be so consumed with the division. They should be concerned with finding a school that’s the right match.
Q: How should a recruit let you know he wants to play for Mount Union?
A: I value a young man that’s looking for us, as much as we’re looking for him. It means something to me when a recruit can make it personal for us. We get a lot of emails from recruits, every day. And, a lot of the emails are all kind of the same, in the sense that it’s a kid sending an email to Mount Union, along with a hundred other programs.
Now, the emails that we really pay attention to, are the ones that display a knowledge of our program. When a young man can express what it would mean to him to be a part of our program, that carries some weight. It makes us feel a sense of obligation in handling that young man. The recruiting process requires a tremendous amount of communication, both from the recruit and the coaches. Through that communication, we want to gather as much accurate information on a guy, as possible. If you’re actively coming after Mount Union, we won’t overlook you. As much as we’re trying to find you, you should try to find us, too.
Kevin Donley, Saint Francis (Ind.), NAIA National Champions
Q: What advice do you have for the high school athlete not receiving much attention from college coaches?
College recruiting is like applying for a job. The whole idea of getting your resume in the hands of the right people is what this is all about. Because if the right people see your resume, then you’re most likely going to get to the interview. That’s what you’re hoping for. That’s the goal. Interviewing adds the human element to the recruiting process. It helps you see the things that maybe you can’t see through film. It gives you a much more accurate assessment of who you’re dealing with. When we talk with a recruit on the phone or he comes to meet with us on campus, it’s an interview. You’re interviewing us and our program, and we’re interviewing you. Ultimately, we both want to determine whether this is going to be a good fit, or not. So, if you’re not getting much attention, focus on making sure the right people are seeing your resume.
Q: How can a recruit let you know he is interested in your program?
A: Contact us. Pick up the phone, send us an email or Hudl video. Tell us about yourself and what’s important to you. We want to see kids face-to-face, too. We want to meet you and shake your hand. We want to meet your mom and dad. We genuinely want to hear about you and what you want to not only do for the next four years, but for the rest of your life. The business of recruiting is all about relationships. I think high school kids are surprised to see that we are just as interested in learning about them, as they are in learning about us. So, focus on building relationships with the people you want to build relationships with. It’s as simple as that.