Behind The Scenes With Jack Sears

The Duke Football program got major news recently when four star quarterback Jack Sears picked the Blue Devils over a number of elite high major offers. We sat down with Sears’ high school coach to get the behind the scenes recap of how this big time recruit handled the process and what Coach Cutcliffe and company did to win this race.

San Clemente High head coach Jamie Ortiz on quarterback Jack Sears’ decision to attend Duke…

To start, when you think back to when the recruiting process really got going with Jack’s recruiting process, what do you remember about how Jack and his family wanted to handle things?

With Jack, things started picking up for him really in late January, towards the end of the observation period. Last year we had 3 players sign with Division One programs, so there were coaches who were on really good coaches from programs like Utah, Oregon State, he had Stanford and Boise State who were all watching Jack throw. The recruiting process then started kinda taking off towards the end of January, early February when he started getting some more offers and I think he ended up with 20, 22 offers when it was all said and done. For Jack during his spring break he took kinda one big trip to a bunch of West Coast schools just to get a feel for what they are all about and then beginning of the summer he went back and visited some schools back East. If I remember correctly he got to visit Duke on two different occasions. When he went on that whirlwind tour he got to visit Alabama and Tennessee, he visited Vanderbilt, he visited Duke, he visited Northwestern, he visited North Carolina and he got to see a lot.  

In my opinion he went through the process very well and I always tell kids that when you go on these early visits, it’s important to sometimes find more what doesn’t fit than what does. So he had offers from a variety of schools in the ACC, SEC, Pac 12, but really it came down to 4 schools with USC, UCLA, Utah and Duke and at the end of the day of the day, Duke was the last man standing. In my opinion, they did a really good job of recruiting Jack and Jeff Faris deserves a medal for how he recruited Jack. He constantly contacted him and Jack really built a great relationship with him and Coach Cutcliffe and they gave him great information along the way. At the end of the day, Duke is where Jack feels at home. Coach Faris was always in constant contact and he really built a great relationship with Jack and his family. I had the opportunity to work with him a little bit and I think Coach Cutcliffe said it best that when Jack narrowed it down to his final 4, he said they were all the same and Duke was something different and for Jack, he was looking for something different which is why Duke was for him.

When Duke was first starting to get involved with Jack, how did Jack and his family feel about them in those early stages of the recruiting process?

With Jack it’s always about getting that quality education and then having the football experience with it, so Duke was always a viable option for him. With Jack he’s not making a 4 year decision, it’s a 40-year decision and from the minute Jack started going through his process-he made it very clear to the other coaches that academics were just as important as football. You could have a shiny new weight room and you could have the biggest stadium, but at the end of the day, Jack wants that degree that’s going to help him. I know there’s no guarantees in college in regards to what the future holds, so that’s why you want the degree to go with it and with Duke, that was a school in the back of his mind that he held in high regard because of how good the academics are there.

As the communication process unfolded with Duke, what did they identify as to how they felt about Jack and what kind of impact they expected him to make if he were to go there?

From my conversations, they knew he was really big into academics and was really a well-rounded kid  face of a program that really leads by example. They like Jack certainly had those qualities both on the field and in the classroom and he’s the guy who could take that program to an even better place. Then with Coach Cutcliffe having coached the Manning brothers and other quarterbacks, that was something that was a factor as well. I think they are on something great and I’ve spoken to other coaches in that area who know how well they are doing and I know Jack is looking forward to helping that program hopefully get to the next level.

Being a potential face of the program, a two part question for you… First, how do you think Jack reacted to that kind of pitch from the Duke program and second, face of program type kids tend to have expectations on them in terms of recruiting and representing the program, what are your thoughts on how the family feels about those facets of Jack going to Duke?

Yeah I think for Jack, he’s not big on social media in terms of look at me, look at me. For Jack it’s more about leading by example on the field and in the classroom. The true sign of a leader is one who doesn’t seek out attention but who leads his teammates well despite whatever attention he receives. At the end of the day in the recruiting process and when he decided on Duke—he said a big thing for him after that was really focusing on his high school teammates. I think sometimes guys can get caught up in the look at me, look at me aspect of things when they are 18, 19 years old and that’s not him.

Given his high rankings, has he been approached to reach out to other high major recruits?

To be honest with you I don’t know. I do know that they are going to be able to use to their advantage the fact that he’s a 4 star quarterback and I think it shocked a lot of people that he’s going to Duke, but that’s where he felt at home. I’m not aware at this point of any talks he’s had with recruiters along those lines though.

Several of Jack’s future teammates have indicated that the entire class was talking with Jack during his recruiting process, how much of an impact are you aware of that that made in his recruiting process?

I don’t know firsthand about those conversations, but one guy I know he talked to was with Ben Humphreys at Duke, that was a guy who was a great guy to talk to from Duke’s campus. But I don’t know firsthand of any of Duke’s recruits and what those conversations were with Jack. I do know that Jack talked to guys who are both current Duke players and guys who are going to be Duke players, that was all a part of the decision-making process. I think Duke felt right for him, when he went and visited and he spent some time with the players and the coaches—he just felt like this is where I want to be. It was important getting to be in the locker room because you really want to make sure on who your future teammates are, and I know the ones he got to know, it was great for Jack to get to know them.

What kind of conversations has Duke had with Jack regarding a chance to come in an compete for immediate playing time?

I don’t know the answer to that question to be honest. I know when Jack steps foot on campus he’s going to be ready to compete right away. I don’t think it’s something a coach will just tell him that he’s starting right away because that’s not the type of kid that he is. He’s a kid that doesn’t like to lose, so whether the returning starter is back or you got two sophomores going for that spot, Jack is ready to go on campus and compete.

Is Jack graduating early and getting to Duke in January a serious option?

Yeah he will be graduating early in December and he’ll be at Duke right after that, whenever school starts he’ll be there for that second semester, he will be a mid-year enrollee. That’s something his family decided they want to do early on. This started at the end of his sophomore year in planning that out. They just felt like that was really important to do, especially with him being a quarterback.

What do you remember about the final family decisions and when the decision was finally announced?

It was very nonchalant really. He knew that Duke was the place that he wanted to go and his dad gave him some great advice to sleep on it for two nights and after those two nights he called me and let me know that he was going to be calling Duke really early in the morning to let Coach Cutcliffe know that Duke was where he wanted to go. I think it was on the first or second day of our camp and I got the call from him early in the morning that he was making the call which that’s Jack for you. It’s not his nature to drag it out. He knew he wanted to go to Duke and that was it. To be honest with you about a week before he committed I had a feeling that Duke was where he was going to go.

How difficult a decision was it do you think for him being from California to make the decision to go to Duke over two other California programs?

I agree, that’s what struck me the most with him being a California kid and making the decision to go all the way out to Duke. I remember on the first day of his recruiting process, location was not a factor for him which was different from say a Sam Darnold, he doesn’t like planes and he doesn’t like airports which was a factor in his decision. For Jack distance wasn’t a problem and Jack’s the type of kid who is different and who marches to the beat of a different drum in a good way.

Is he 100% firm in his decision?

Yeah I don’t think, like I said that before his process started, it’s a big part of who we are as a program here that when our kids go through the recruiting process that you do your due diligence and make a sound and right decision and that’s something that you are going to stay with once you decide. We’ve been pretty lucky that when our kids have made their decisions that they have been firm in those decisions and there’s nothing I can’t stand more when I see kids who make a decision and then talk about how blessed they are to take other visits, I just think that you are even more blessed by going to the school that you committed to months ago. As a coach I relate it to our guys that it’s like dating somebody after you ask your future wife to marry you just because you want to date that other girl. I’m kinda old school in that way, but in my conversations with Jack and his family, they are VERY firm in the decision and they are excited about his future at Duke.

How did you guys react to all the attention that came his way from fans and media alike after his commitment to Duke was announced?

Whether it’s positive or negative for Jack, he just kinda rolls with it all. I think it kinda shocked a lot of people, but at the end of the day as the quarterback and as a player—we just tell them to ignore the noise and just focus on what you need to do for your team. I know a lot of people reached out on Twitter and text and so forth just telling him best of luck and we’re happy for your decision. He just wants to focus on the task at hand now of playing his last high school season and getting ready for Duke.

With him having the opportunity to potentially compete for early playing time, is the possibility there that he may go pro early depending on how things go?

You know a little bit, I think he’d love to see how the opportunity plays out but he’s really a kid who will take things year by year who doesn’t think so much about a five or six year plan but rather he tries to be present in the moment. If that opportunity presents itself he may not turn it down, but he’s also a kid who takes his academics extremely seriously, so that’s a big part of it. I think for him if the opportunity presents itself, that’s awesome, but if not, he’s going to have that Duke degree which helps you be set for life.

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