Dear Recruit:

Hey, recruit:<br> Don't blow the 'It' you possess<br> <br> Dear recruit: <br><br> Congratulations first and foremost for one thing: Being blessed by God with the genes and heredity to be in this position, blessed with greater potential for strength and speed and coordination than most your age.

"It" may have first surfaced in fourth grade or during your first practice on the freshman team. But make no mistake, you had this from the womb.

You were born with "It" and honed "It" with the help of others. Many, however, completely blow "It" or never develop "It," and you've heard or read of a few. Every community, from Lizella to Louisville and Gray to Gotham and Dublin to Detroit, has those wasted legends, those who received the attention and headlines in high school and did little or nothing with their chances, and in many cases, lives.

You don't want people talking about you in 10 years and shaking their heads, thinking about what could've been if "he wasn't such a bonehead." Many of us who weren't born with "It" - we're in the great majority, and currently supporting thousands who were born with "It" - are pretty sick and tired of your cohorts screwing up. They embarrass themselves, their family, and everybody who's ever helped them, and every teammate and teacher they've ever had.

Never forget one cardinal rule: "How will Momma feel?"

Remember: Honesty never got anybody in real trouble. If you're unsure, say so. Don't get suckered into making a commitment that you can't fulfill, just like you don't want a school to make a commitment it can't fulfill.

Remember: Those you can trust won't pressure you, and never will, except to do the right thing.

Remember: Your mother is female. Your grandmother is female. Your sister is female. Don't forget that when you meet those females your age.

You're going to have some serious opportunities, whether you look like Taye Diggs or Jabba The Hut - there's never been accounting for taste or judgment in our species - but know this:

You ain't the first on somebody's roster. When too easy a situation presents itself, wonder a little bit how many times before you that same situation presented itself to somebody else. A well-worn road can have some potholes, and you never know where some of them will take you.

That this needs to be said is pretty ridiculous, but: no means no. Take it as a "no" and move on. Don't get caught up in semantics or tone or inference and think "no" means "yes" because you'll lose.

Still debating?

OK. A woman in your family said "no" and somebody interpreted "yes." Got it?

College offers the possibility for plenty of opportunities. You don't have to go for every one of them. Just because you love pizza doesn't mean you can eat it every day.

Remember: If your coach says you can't do it or it's wrong, you can't do it and it's wrong. The coaches who will discipline you are the ones you can trust. The ones who give you a free pass are the ones who will blow you off when things get tight. Or y'all get caught.

After all, if they can't be trusted to follow the rules, what makes you think you can trust them? Unsure? Get online and Google: Dave Bliss, Colorado football, Jim Harrick, Jerry Tarkanian, Tulane basketball, SMU football, to name but a few situations and people.

Remember: Go to class. Personally, I think the whole college system - the education and curriculum and degree requirements part - needs an overhaul, and that's a tirade for another day.

Going to bed a hair smarter than when you woke up is good. Knowledge, contrary to the belief of those who lack it or never sought it, is a great, great thing. To paraphrase Nuke LaLoosh from Bull Durham: Being smarter is better than, ya know, bein' stupid.

Remember: Have class.

It's hard to look past the next month or six, but class makes proud the people you want to make proud. It inspires more people to look up to you. It opens doors.

The respect of hangers-on and an entourage never lasts as long as the respect earned from having class.

Remember: You're one busted knee away from being closer to the rest of us.

You're not bulletproof nor invincible nor as good as you've been led to believe. Many a Parade All-American has finished a college career having found that out too late.

All this isn't to say zip your lip, close your ears, join a commune, and have no fun. Hey, college is college, and if you don't experience all the facets, you've really blown it.

You'll only be this age once, and the real world awaits. Take it from the rest of us: it's usually overrated, and there's a reason many of us talk about the good old days, which are your good current days.

We expect good stories on your break, as long as they involve no violence, violations, dishonor, or generally inexcusable behavior. You can have fun without cheating, lying, stealing, personal invasions, physicality, thuggishness, and just scamming your way through.

It's just as easy to show some sense, pride and integrity as it is to be a cowardly, gutless thug.

So take advantage of this incredible blessing that one day you'll realize the magnificence of, and make people proud. It's a better feeling than you might think.

Sincerely, An interested observer.

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