I ask some form of that question, and without fail, NU targets mention academics.
Sometimes, it serves as a side note—a nice addition to an intriguing school.
For Jared Thomas—Northwestern's most recent offer—it formed the bulk of a conversation. The Indianapolis (Ind.) Cathedral HS offensive guard appears passionate about earning his degree, knowing NU will support him.
"I love everything about the school and everything they have to offer," Thomas told PurpleWildcats.com. "I don't have any rankings of schools, but I will say that Northwestern has the academic field I'm looking to go into."
His ideal field? Broadcast journalism. Northwestern boasts Medill, which is among the most prestigious journalism schools in the world.* During a phone conversation with Adam Cushing last night, NU's offensive line coach briefly spoke with Thomas about its reputation.
"I'm sure [NU] is well respected for that," Thomas said. "We talked about that. Of course, the football aspect of it is great, but as far as academics, [NU] is up there. You can never go wrong with going to a good academic school."
In addition to his academic interest, Thomas is impressed with the coaching staff—especially Cushing. The O-line coach has earned strong reviews from recruits early this season, with Thomas and highly touted center Brian Chaffin praising his ability to build rapport with them.
"They showed me a lot of love so far," Thomas said. "I like all of the coaches who I've spoken with. I had a conversation with Coach Cushing, so we're building a relationship, and I plan to keep in contact with Coach Fitzgerald."
Part of their strong communication involved openness: Cushing and the staff explained to Thomas that he would receive an offer once NU worked through logistics.
"They informed me that it would be coming," he said. "It was just a matter of time."
The offer dropped on Tuesday afternoon, just part of NU's aggressive couple of weeks on the recruiting trail. Pat Fitzgerald, even on this busy day for NU sports, called Thomas to let him know.
"By no means am I not happy," Thomas said. "I'm happy that I got it. It just hadn't been official as of yet."
Thomas seems eager to visit Northwestern at the soonest possible date. He's held up by basketball season, with games on Fridays and Saturdays, but plans to check out a spring practice.
"It's all going to end at one point," Thomas said of football.
Understanding the benefits of a backup plan, he sounds an awful lot like your standard Northwestern recruit.
Publisher's Note: Nick Medline attends the Medill School of Journalism.