Four-star linebacker Tyriq Thompson of Detroit (Mich.) King HS fits the mold. He's been high on NU's list for several months now, building relationships with the coaching staff and learning about the program.
"They've been coming at me pretty hard," Thompson said.
Thompson has visited Evanston for a practice and game, and in the process learned more about Pat Fitzgerald. He gave high praise to the Northwestern head coach, who will play a major role in his recruitment.
"The first thing that stands out to me is his charisma and dedication to the program," Thompson said. "When I went down to watch one of the practices, and one of the games, you could see his passion for the game of football."
Prospects close to the program understand things beyond the wins and losses. At least for one year, the team's 5-7 record in 2013 won't hurt recruiting.
It's about the future, and not the present, and Thompson appears sold on how committed the Wildcats are to his recruitment.
As for knowing he's among the top priorities?
"It's really important," he said. "If a school isn't that much concerned with you, then why should you be concerned with them?"
NU can deal with the challenge: Thompson's father, Clarence, played defensive back at Michigan. Thompson holds an offer from Michigan, with others including Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa and Pittsburgh.
Thompson has yet to establish a timeframe for his decision–letting the process play out–but holds two characteristics in mind for his school of choice.
"First, mainly, is education," he said. "That's always going to be the first priority… Then, a program with the potential to win games and championships."
If the Wildcats can convince Thompson of the latter, they'll be in contention for another program-turning player.