26-year old Tyler McEntire arrived at NC State in February after previous stints at Appalachian State and Virginia Tech. Along the way he’s worn several hats- from video staff assistant to Director of High School Relations to student assistant coach. He is now the Director of Creative Media for the Wolfpack.
In the ever-evolving world of football recruiting, social media has become front and center with the vast majority of football recruits. Colleges have taken notice and many of their recruiting efforts focus around their ability to connect with players through their smartphones or tablets.
No school has been more creative or cutting edge than NC State. The Pack has consistently rolled out sharp, eye-catching graphics that convert simple ideas or popular themes into images that connect recruits to NC State. It seems like a simple concept but given that most teenagers are tethered to their phones, it’s an ingenious idea that has emerged as a critical part of the recruiting process. Oftentimes it will be a prospect’s initial interaction with NC State.
State’s most recent graphic was that of a player dressed in his high school uniform looking at himself in the mirror. In the reflection the player saw himself in an NC State uniform. That particular graphic was actually the creation of former NC State player and current Assistant Director of Player Personnel/Recruit Communications, Merci Falaise. McEntire explained how the ‘man in the mirror’ came to be.
“Merci Falaise, so he's huge,” said McEntire. “He's the one who came up with the one looking in the mirror. He actually saw a picture of LeBron James and it was like a cartoon. Lebron was looking in the mirror and it was like a goat looking back at him- like the greatest of all time. So Merci was like "Dude, come here, look at this." That's how he came up with that one. Merci's been awesome, he comes up with great ideas all the time."
McEntire said the man in the mirror was one of the hardest and most time consuming graphics he’s produced so far and with so much detail needed, there’s tremendous pressure to get it right.
“The two hardest ones I've done so far were the NFL draft and the mirror. On the mirror one it helps because I know football. I was a coach and I've seen high school film. I've watched high school film before, so some of these schools, I already know what their jerseys look like. That helps, but if you don't know, like for some schools in Georgia and Florida that I'm not as familiar with, you know you've just got to look it up. You've got to make sure it's on the right year because you don't want to do it wrong. You know, there's two Jones High Schools. You've got to make sure Jones High School, Florida or Georgia, whichever one it is, you’ve got to make sure you have the right one. Hopefully when you type in the kid's name, it's got a picture of his jersey, but these days sometimes there's not, it's just a photo from a Rivals combine so you've got to do your research. That's half of what my job is- research.
“If you screw it up, and that coach took that graphic, that's embarrassing for the coach, and that's my butt. There's a massive effort ... I go through it three times, four times sometimes, like especially with stuff like that where I'm having to change things. In the mirror graphic, I had to change the number of the NC State player, jersey, helmet, logo, and then in the back, I don't know if you saw, but there's pennants with the high school color and the name. That's seven things. With seven things, you've got to go through that thing three or four times to make sure it’s right.”
McEntire admits that he pays attention to what other schools are producing but ultimately it boils down to producing content that connects prospects with the NC State coaching staff while planting the seed of potentially playing for the Wolfpack in college.
“The other thing is just kind of what you're saying, seeing what other people are doing, that's kind of how I got started in this deal when I was at Appalachian State. But the biggest thing for me is, I want the coaches to seem relevant and I want the recruits to think the coaches are cool and hip and they know what's going on.
“And that's kind of how we go about these personalized graphics. You want to kind of create a cool way for the recruit to see themselves playing at NC State, like the mirror one. That's a great idea. It's like the man in the mirror looking in the mirror and you're seeing your future in the mirror. They can see themselves playing at NC State now. "Okay, I can see that happening. Okay, NC State.
“And as far as the frequency and stuff like that, you guys obviously always see, coach is showing me some love, and NC State showing love, and that's a big thing. It kind of sounds a little silly, like showing love, but that's what they're looking for in a relationship- love and being cared about by these coaches. And that's our biggest push, cause we always send those. It's not me sending those kids those graphics. It's obviously our coaches. It's really another thing that goes into it is I want that to be a conversation starter, too. The Kodak album- that's just cool, you know. That's just something cool, hip, it's current, kids like it. But a lot of them, we want them to be conversation starters- something the coach can kind of start a conversation up with. Because you don't want to see that text message thread that's just got graphic after graphic with no interaction, no communication. So we kind of want those graphics to enhance the communication. That's kind of how we go about it. That's kind of how we come up with ideas as far as conversation starters, basically.”
NC State embraces its reputation as a blue-collar, hand-in-the-dirt school. However, McEntire said he’s fine if the Pack comes off as a little flashy, if only on social media. A huge part of that is getting across as much information with as few words as possible.
“Me and Merci, that's where our job's really important because it is that wow factor. The kids might say, "Oh man, NC State's a little big flashy." We kinda have that mantra, that we're not the flashy, sexy school, which is okay. We have no issue with that. That's not who we are, it's great, but you want to make a splash. You want to make that quick reaction- make a kid smile, make them laugh, whatever. And it's a positive response about the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
“We want to make an impact with as few words as we can- with big numbers or big letters, big words, but as few of them as possible. If I put a lot of words on a graphic, I've just wasted my time. I mean, there are pieces that you need to do that for- you know about maybe our business school- you're going to need to do that. Even still, you can still take that information, condense it down, make enough splash so it gets them to come here. 'Business school? It looks pretty cool, I'm going to think about that now.' Maybe now he's interested enough to come up and visit us, and that's our big key is getting kids on campus. Once we get kids on campus, it's showtime, and they do a phenomenal job. Once they're here, and we see it all the time, 'Oh coach, I didn't know it was this nice up here.' That's the biggest thing, is getting these kids on campus, and I'm like the first interaction basically- with those graphics- if they haven't been here before.
McEntire and Falaise are technically considered support staff and as such, don’t get a lot of time in the limelight. While their work is critical to the success of NC State, in large part both go about their jobs anonymously. So at the end of the day, what’s the payoff?
“My biggest payoff is when we get kids committed by the end of next February. That'll be the biggest payoff is seeing what kind of impact have we made as a group, as coaches, and what kind of class we sign. Again, you hear this all the time, you know about the rankings and things, but my biggest payoff is going to be, did we sign the best possible class that fits our team, our offense, our defense, our special teams. Did we sign the best, high quality character men to help our team win? That's the biggest thing, and then, winning, that's a big payoff too.
“Selfishly, seeing those kids post those things on Twitter is pretty cool, too. It makes you feel real good. It's like, "Ah man, you know we made an impact." That kid took the time to screenshot it, save the photo and post it, and say, "NC State, showing us some love," but that means that we've made some sort of positive impact for that coach and for our program, so that's always good to see that too. The biggest thing is winning, one, on the field, and then winning in the future with the classes we sign, that's the biggest payoff.”