Reality Check Coming For Football Recruits

Phillip Marshall writes about football recruiting in his Thursday column.

You are a college football recruit and Wednesday was a wonderful day. You signed with the school of your choice with your parents and your friends and your high school coaches watching. The local newspaper came out and took pictures and interviewed you. This is what you've dreamed of since you were a little boy.

When you called the coach who recruited you to tell him you'd signed, he talked to your mom and dad and even your little sister. You were the man of the hour at school. The girls all wanted to sit by you at lunch.

It was the end of a glorious process. You had visited schools all over the country. They treated you and your parents like celebrities, told you they needed you. The recruiting analysts called and you got to know them on a first-name basis.

In a few months, you'll be heading off to college. Get ready for a big dose of reality.

The coach who so charmed you and your parents in the living room of your home won't be smiling out on the practice field. He'll be in your face, loud and demanding. He won't care that it's 100 degrees and you are so hot you feel like you are going to faint.

Recruits like Opelika defensive star T.J. Jackson will have to start over again.

That pretty girl that went out with you on your official visit and told you she couldn't wait for you to get back? She may or may not remember your name.

When the hitting starts, you'll be one of a field full of guys who were high school stars. They won't care what some recruiting service said about you or how many stars were by your name. They'll have their own rating system, one that comes from what you do when things get really tough.

Some guys, like Carnell Williams, pass that test and earn respect before they ever play a game. Others, like Willie Northern, flunk it and are soon gone and forgotten. Most just survive and go on to fight another day.

The coach told you that you would have a chance to play as a freshman. The upperclassmen will just see another freshman. They'll want you to wait your turn, because if you are in the playing rotation, that means one of them isn't. Convincing them you belong will be as important as convincing your coach.

You were a dominant player just last year. You were bigger and faster than most everybody you played against. Now, suddenly, you will be playing against people bigger, stronger and faster than you are. They'll know what to do. You won't know what to do because you will not have had time to learn. The coach will get in your face and yell at you anyway.

You'll wonder if that coach is he really the same guy who said your mom cooked the best pork chops he'd ever eaten and asked your grandmother if she could send her apple pie recipe to his wife. He seemed so laid back then. Now he can't be satisfied.

It seemed so glamorous from a distance, but you will wonder if you are going to survive two-a-days. Days will start early and end late. More than anything else, you'll just want to rest. Your body will ache all over.

Will it be worth it? For some it will be and some it won't. Some five-star, can't-miss prospects who signed Wednesday will never make it. The demands will be more than they are willing to give. Some guys who didn't excite recruiting analysts, who were scarcely talked about during the process, will become stars.

For those who make it, it will be the experience of a lifetime. There will be incredible highs and numbing lows. There will be celebrations and tears. Relationships will be formed with coaches and teammates that will last for a lifetime.

Millions of boys dream of putting on that jersey and running on to the field as the crowd roars. They dream of making the big play to win the big game.

Some high school boy who signed his name Wednesday will do just that. He will be a hero. He will win the Heisman Trophy.

We just don't know who he is.


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