In the heat of recruiting season, prospects are sent bushels of mail. Most of it ends up in the trash, sometimes unopened. How do schools avoid wasting postage?
It's all about first impressions.
The Cyclones have fun with their recruiting letters, putting prospective players on the cover of Sports Illustrated or an EA Sports video game, turn them into one of the Avengers or slap their face on the scoreboard at Jack Trice Stadium. They make sure the point gets across by using window envelopes, so the first thing a player sees when he sorts through his letters might be …
Explains Gerrit Chernoff, assistant for football recruiting and operations: "If they just see an ISU logo, they might not think twice about it. But if they see something with their face on it …
"The goal is to always get the guys to see themselves as an Iowa State Cyclone."
Creative, personalized letters aren't uncommon anymore, but ISU believes it has an advantage.
"We were one of the first schools to do it, I really believe that," Chernoff said. "And one of the strengths with Iowa State is the graphic design program is one of the best in the country. It's all about taking advantage of the resources you have. I'm kind of the marketing mind behind it, if you will, but I like to use my staff and the college kids to see what's hip, what's cool."
Many players will put the photoshopped images at the front of their class binder. Some, like Reggan Northrup, tape them up in their bedroom and fill an entire wall.
ISU's personalized tactics are so highly-regarded, actually, that rival schools have felt compelled to take up the matter with the NCAA.
"We've had a lot of schools try to turn us in for violations," Chernoff said. "But after talking to compliance several times, it's perfectly legal."
Letters sent to Michael Warren, courtesy of his mother, Barbara.