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This is not your average recruiting story. It's part American Idol, the TV show, part Playstation video game and part hard work and salesmanship. Combine that with a good old American small town and a catchy little motto.
Everybody is Somebody in Snellville, Georgia.
That's what the sign reads when you pull into town.
Really, it does.
For those of you American Idol fans out there, you saw a glimpse of Snellville on Tuesday night, as Diana DeGarmo, one of the remaining 11 contestants on the show, hails from Snellville, a town with just over 12,000 citizens.
Regardless of how DeGarmo does on the television show, Snellville may have another proud son about to go ‘national', and that is lineman Brian Truelove.
The 6-foot-2, 265-pound offensive/defensive lineman is hearing from several major colleges across the country.
In a March 2nd article on The Insiders network, Truelove said, ""My favorites are Wisconsin, Nebraska, Tennessee, West Virginia, Boston College, and Illinois. I've also received interest from Maryland and Arkansas."
Then on Tuesday, March 16th, his father said the following regarding the Iowa Hawkeyes:
"The (Outback) bowl game this year with Iowa beating Florida is what really did it for Brian. He wanted to go to Iowa from that point on."
"We've been speaking with (Iowa coach) Eric Johnson and he's just a great guy. Coach Johnson told us that they usually don't go down south for offensive lineman but if someone showed an interest in Iowa that they would definitely be eager to listen."
"We're going to visit Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois starting April 2nd. We've already been to Illinois for a camp last year."
After reading those two interviews, conducted two weeks apart, we felt like we should get to know Brian a bit more and find out what exactly about the Iowa program impressed him.
"Well, I really didn't know much about Iowa going into the (bowl) game. I just figured that a SEC team would kill Iowa. But Iowa came in and whooped ‘em. They pretty much came in and ran the ball right down their throat. So I liked that. They just hammered ‘em. The defense was solid. They took it to ‘em. I said, ‘dad gum, that was a real eye opener.'" Truelove said in his pleasant southern vernacular.
"It really got me looking at schools from the Big Ten. I just liked what I saw in Iowa."
On the phone, Truelove sounded like your typical southern gentleman, full of ‘Yes, sir's' and ‘No, sir's'.
In exploring the ‘Why Iowa?' question a bit more with Truelove, we learned that the Hawkeyes benefited from being the first New Year's Day bowl game on television that day, as he did not necessarily set out to watch that particular game.
"Well, it was an early game, I remember. It was the first game of the day. When it comes time for bowls, I try to watch all of them anyway."
Though he admitted to not knowing much at all about Iowa football prior to that game, the Hawkeyes impressive 37-17 win against Florida and the dominating way in which Iowa handled the Gators really struck a chord with the lifelong Georgia native.
"I didn't know much outside of the ACC or SEC. I know what teams were in what conference, but I did not think of them as dominant teams. But then, Iowa jumped up and beat Florida. I said to myself, ‘They are playing tough up there.' My dad said ‘Oh yeah, the Big Ten. That is what real football is all about.'" Truelove said.
Truelove said that Iowa was not his first exposure to the Big Ten and northern teams.
"My dad decided last summer…he tried to call a bunch of schools, not really knowing what to do in recruiting. Illinois started sending more letters than anyone else. He decided we should take a trip up there. I went up there and I really liked it." Truelove said.
"Now, we are going to Iowa during my spring break to see the campus and watch practice and meet the coaches. That will take place during the first week of April."
Truelove told us that he has max lifts of 425 on the bench press, 460 on squats and 270 on the clean. He ran a self reported 5.0 forty-yard dash recently, which was a personal best.
He trains at Chip Smith's Competitive Edge Sports in Atlanta. Smith is recognized as one of the foremost strength and speed experts in the United States, having trained more than 200 current NFL athletes. Current clientele includes Chicago Bear linebacker Brian Ulracher and another linebacker, Keith Brooking. USC standout receiver Mike Williams was recently at the gym and in Smith's program Truelove told us.
The more we spoke with Truelove, the more his story began to sound like that of another Georgia prep lineman, Rashad Dunn of Greenbriar High School of suburban Augusta.
Dunn was being overlooked by a lot of southern schools because of his size. He felt that Iowa would be a good place to play football, so he sent the Iowa staff his highlight tape in mid-December.
A month later, he was on a plane to Iowa City, and on his way home, he received and accepted a scholarship offer from Iowa.
"I just called up there (to Iowa) recently, a couple of weeks ago. I had been getting letters from a bunch of different schools since last summer. I was thinking about it, and I felt that Iowa is a school that I am interested in, but I had not heard from them."
"So my dad called up there. They said they took a kid from Greenbriar, and that his coach convinced them on his hard work, and they took him, but that they really didn't recruit from Georgia all that often. After I talked to them, I sent a tape up and transcripts. Then I got a handwritten letter back from Eric Johnson. Then I got some hotel information, so we made reservations and we are going to go watch practice."
Very similar stories, indeed.
I continued to wonder to why Iowa was all of the sudden his favorite school after nary a mention in the March 2nd, interview. His answers were indicative of the times we live in.
"It looks like a great place to play ball. My dad feels that I would really do well there. So I just looked them up. I have a big book that is like the 350 best colleges in the nation, and I read up on Iowa a little bit," Truelove said.
"Then I looked at their stadium on NCAA 2004, the video game. That sounds kind of funny, I know. But then I looked at their schedule and I saw that they were on TV all of the time. It looks fun and it looks like a great place to be."
Another step in Truelove's due diligence on the University of Iowa found him learning about Hawkeye Outland Trophy winner Robert Gallery.
"I saw it on TV that he won that award. My dad was joking with me, saying ‘See that guy there? He is probably living like a king up there and having people feed him grapes. That is the kind of place where you want to be.'" Truelove joked.
The Truelove's will soon be boarding a plane and heading north to visit the River City, and like several prospects that have never been to America's Heartland, Truelove is unsure what to expect, but he knows what he does and does not want to see.
"Some people have asked me what I want a campus to be like. I hope Iowa City is not anything like Atlanta. Ideally, I will play anywhere. But I don't really like Georgia Tech's campus, because it is right in the middle of a city and big city life. I don't know if I like that." Truelove said. He stated in the March 2nd article on The Insiders network that Georgia Tech was his favorite school when he was younger.
"I would rather it be out by itself, but not too far out in the country. I don't know what Iowa City is going to be like, but I hope not too big, but not too small."
Along the way, Truelove will be tuning into American Idol to see how his fellow hometown star is doing.
"I met her, she was signing autographs." Truelove said of ‘Idol' contestant DeGarmo. "She works out at my gym. She went up there and lost a lot of weight, got pretty skinny. They have a picture of her there."
Your picture on the wall of a fitness center.
Afterall, it's Snellville, where Everybody is Somebody.
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