Filled with life changing decisions, pressure from all angles, coaches who have been fired or quit, uncertainty, broken promises, and other unforeseeable vicissitudes, the young men who traverse such terrain often find themselves gripping their heads to make the world stop spinning.
That's why the recruiting philosophy at Michigan State is devoted to building trust, recruiting coordinator Mark Staten told GSN recently.
"Young men aren't dumb. There are some people out there who think they can throw everything at them, give them this, give them that," Staten said.
"But someday they have to come and report to the school they commit to and get going like everybody else does, and a lot of times that's why you see transfers and things like that, because they've been sold this bill of goods, and then they get out there and it's not as good or it's not going the way they originally thought.
"That's the great thing about Coach D (head coach Mark Dantonio)," Staten continued. "He's straight-forward and this is the way it is and he doesn't sell you a song."
Time after time, recruits report their relief after meeting with Dantonio and hearing he wants them to take their time with perhaps the biggest decision of their lives to date. After a scholarship offer has been made, they are almost inevitably told a decision should wait until they have had time to speak with their parents and family.
Only after student-athletes have had time to digest their options, and commit wholeheartedly to being a Spartan, are most final decisions made. The delay (often termed a "soft sell" recruiting philosophy, famously employed by Ohio State as well) can also give the Spartan coaching staff time to meet and establish relationships with the people who surround the young men.
"They're a huge part," Staten says about recruits' parents and family. "They've taken these young men up to a certain point, and then they're truly leaving them with us for 4-5 years, saying, continue to raise my boy into a man, into a productive member of society.
"And in order to do that, there's got to be trust, and that trust is gained by getting to know those family members or those coaches that surround them or the guardians, grandparents, whoever it may be."
Parents and guardians know that, ultimately, making millions of dollars in the NFL, even for highly-touted high schoolers, is akin to winning the lottery. So making sure young men and their families know the benefits of a Spartan education is key to enrolling talented players.
"Michigan State is a great academic institution, plain and simple," Staten said. "That attracts high quality student athletes and you just need to get that message out there to them, show them how great our engineering program is, show them how great our education program is, how great our sciences are — things of that nature. They just do the math and it adds up to Michigan State's favor."
As recruiting coordinator, Staten gets plenty of support from a close-knit group of colleagues.
"Being the coordinator, it's easy when you know what the guys are going to do and you know how they're going to do it. We feed off each other because we truly are friends. In the offseason we hang out, our children play together, our wives go shopping together and hang out. It's a great thing."
In the end, Staten and the Spartan coaching staff work their collective behinds off to nurture the young men who have chosen Michigan State for higher education.
"When you think about it, what's the most important thing you get out of a scholarship?" Staten asks. "You get your school paid for. You get to walk with that degree, diploma in-hand, that little silly cap on and that's something we all (the Spartan football family) celebrate, something we truly, truly are excited for the young men who do graduate."
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