Recruiting Column: Advice from Valdosta State champion football coach Gary Goff

Photo: Valdosta State Athletics

Recruiting Column: Advice from Valdosta State champion football coach Gary Goff

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Advice from Valdosta State champion football coach Gary Goff


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.

It’s pretty simple. If there was a Mt. Rushmore of NCAA Division II football teams, Valdosta State University would be on it. Fresh off their fourth National Championship, the echelon the Blazers play in would undoubtedly be described as Washington-esque! In other words, Valdosta State University is one of the best programs in the history of Div. II football!

This week, I sat down to talk about the college recruiting process with the new head coach of the Blazers, Gary Goff. From how a football player can grab his attention, to the importance of high school coaches, here is what Coach Goff had to say.

Q: How can a recruit get your attention?

A: We’re just like any other quality program, in the sense that we want the biggest, fastest, strongest kids we can get! We need to see a guy jump out on film to us. I think it’s important for kids to understand that because playing college football is special, especially at this level. And, if you’re expecting to be recruited, you’ve got to be a special talent. So, really, it starts with that.

I think when things start to get real for us is when we start further evaluating who the young man is. That’s what gets our attention. When we visit a school to see a young man, we’re paying attention to everything. Because we want guys that are leaders. Guys that are not scared to be leaders, and it shows up everywhere. How do they interact with their coaches, their teachers and their classmates? We recruit men that want to get a degree, as much as they want to play football. Being successful shouldn’t be exclusive to the football field. For the young men we recruit, it should be the expectation in every area of their lives.

Q: Give me an example of a red flag you notice when recruiting a young man.

A: I want to see a young man look me in the eye when I’m speaking to him. Is he genuine? Does he seem interested in what we’re talking about? I try to pick up on the respect levels they show their parents or grandparents when they’re on a visit. You know, moms usually do a great job of asking the questions that matter! How does he react to his mom and her genuine concerns for her son? If he’s telling her to stop asking questions and disregarding what she has to say, that’s a major red flag.

(Photo: Valdosta State Athletics)

Q: What advice do you have for a player not getting much attention from college coaches?

A: If you’re working hard and doing things the right way, there’s a home for you to play college ball. With all the different levels, I am a firm believer that there’s a home for everybody. Now, if you’re taking shortcuts, you’re not getting the bigger picture and you’re not showing respect, more and more schools are going to turn their back on you. And in this day and age, we’re all working too hard to bring in a guy with poor character. That stuff really matters. Sacrificing character for talent is something you just don’t see programs having to put up with anymore. Be a good kid. Work hard in the classroom and on the field. If you do, you’re going to find the place where you belong.

Q: How important are high school coaches during the recruiting process?

A: High school coaches are very important to this process. Essentially, they’re the ones that are laying the foundation for the players in our program, or any program. You know quickly when you’re dealing with a guy from a great high school program. Because those guys usually buy in real fast to the team culture and they’re used to working hard. The better the young men are coached at the high school level, the easier our jobs are at this level. The high school coaches are very much a part of the success we have at the collegiate level.

Q: What is something about the recruiting process you would want families to know?

A: I think families need to understand that at the NCAA Division II level, we’re on a limited recruiting budget. For example, we just won the National Championship in Texas, but we’re not on the ground recruiting in Texas! That’s just how it is. So, if you want us to know who you are, you need to figure out a way to get in front of us. That starts with film. And with how easy Hudl makes it to get film out, that’s probably the easiest way to do it. Send us an email and let us know you’re interested. I can promise you this: if you can play, we will be replying to your email. And once we start that communication process, we’ll figure out together what the next steps need to be.


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