NU has family ties with junior targets

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald has an edge in recruiting several top prospects. Four of the Wildcats' top targets in their 2014 recruiting class have brothers on Northwestern's current roster. Those family ties could pay dividends.

Four-star prospect Garrett Dickerson often seeks advice from his older brother on the recruiting process. Dickerson is a standout recruit who already boasts double-digit offers.

Dickerson's brother is Cameron, a redshirt freshman receiver at Northwestern. While Garrett respects his brother's wisdom on the recruiting process, he knows what's coming each conversation.

"Whenever we talk about recruiting," said the high school junior, "[Cameron] always has to get it in there: 'All the schools are great, but Northwestern is better.' He always has to sell Northwestern to me."

A college coach must use any advantage during recruiting. Whether it's boasting program stability or state-of-the-art facilities, it can often be difficult to sell a blue-chip prospect. Northwestern has an edge in pitching to several of its top recruits, a selling point that runs in family blood.

Dickerson isn't the only Northwestern target in the 2014 class that's a brother of a current Wildcat. NU is making a strong push for linebacker Dillon Bates, the younger brother of senior safety Hunter Bates. In addition, the Wildcats are eyeing defensive end Tito Odenigbo, brother of freshman defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo, and receiver Nathan Hall, brother of sophomore safety Jimmy Hall.

Each prospect has vivid memories of when Pat Fitzgerald first approached their brothers in the recruiting process, and how each was sold on Northwestern.

Nathan Hall remember when his brother visited Northwestern's campus for a Junior Day, and was pulled aside by Coach Fitzgerald.

"They told him he was one of the top recruits of 2010," Hall recalled of his brother's recruitment. "They were close to offering him. Two days later, a letter came in the mail."

The letter extended an official offer to Jimmy, a moment that excited his younger brother.

"I thought it was so cool to think my brother was getting a Big Ten offer," said Nathan. "It's something when you watch Big Ten football on TV and think your brother is going to play there, that's pretty cool."

For each younger brother and especially each family, the recruiting process begins again. This time around, there are different options and greater possibilities.

For Garrett Dickerson, he holds Northwestern in a different light because it already sold his brother, someone he has high respect for.

"Cam definitely has a place in the decision in the end because he has gone through the recruitment process before me and he's given words of wisdom," Garrett said. "He definitely has a big say in helping me decide where I want to go."

Dillon Bates has seen his brother, now a senior at Northwestern, develop as a member of the program. Hunter has offered recruiting advice, too, which gives NU an inside edge on other schools.

"I've spoken with my brother about the recruiting process," said Dillon, "and he has told me to go somewhere that I feel I can spend for or five years at. With him being [at Northwestern] it does give me an inside perspective, but I'm keeping all options open."

What the elder Bates has told his brother is how the Northwestern program operates under head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

"As good of a coach as [Fitzgerald] is, he's an even better person than that," said Dillon, reflecting on his brother's words. "Northwestern is a top-five school academically. Even if football doesn't work, you're set with that degree."

Nathan Hall and Tito Odenigbo are each working to earn a scholarship offer from Northwestern. Hall, a versatile junior, still must submit his test scores to the coaching staff. The thought of earning the opportunity to play at NU is intriguing for Hall.

"It's kind of weird to think, if they offered me and I chose to Northwestern, I'd be in the same drills as my brother," he said.

Northwestern has an edge for several of its prospects; family ties could serve very useful in the recruiting process.

"My parents help me out in the decision," said Garrett Dickerson. "[My Parents] already sent one of us to Northwestern, so they already has a jump on everyone else."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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