Hoping To Change Their Luck With Lincoln Kids

The Division-I football factory, also known as Tallahassee Lincoln High was once again bustling with college coaches from across the nation during its spring camp. Representing Notre Dame in the crowd was assistant coach Bernie Parmalee. The Irish recruiter was in to see T.J. Bryant, one of the best cornerbacks in the nation, and offensive lineman Steven Robinson.

Lincoln head coach Kyle Rice found some extended time in his busy schedule to sit down with Parmalee and talk about Notre Dame and T.J. Bryant and Steven Robinson.

"It was great, he was a great guy," Rice said. The head coach at Lincoln the past two seasons, Rice has been on the staff since 1991 and has seen 46 players from the program sign with Division-I schools since 2000, including NFL defensive backs Pat Watkins and Antonio Cromartie. "Any time you have a guy that played in the NFL for seven or eight seasons, that says something. I was a Bernie Parmalee fan growing up when he played for the Miami Dolphins. That makes him sound old and me sound young. It was a wonderful visit, and he is a wonderful guy, and looks like he can still play.

"I don't know if you have to sell Notre Dame. It is one of those special places where you would have to go real far to find someone that doesn't know what Notre Dame is about. Notre Dame is a special special place. It's a wonderful institution. I actually saw one of our guys that played there, Jay Vickers, running down the road and waved at him. He has been very successful. When you go there you have a chance to be successful after football and that is the thing these kids need to be looking at."

Irish coaches make at least one trip to Lincoln every year, but with the exception of Vickers, who earned an Irish monogram in 1997 and 1998, since then not too many guys have looked at Notre Dame seriously, and none have signed there. Bryant has an offer and has told Scout.com that Notre Dame is among his favorites. Robinson has been quoted that he is hoping for an Irish offer.

While a lot of Lincoln players stay in-state, distance isn't a factor as they have sent kids as far away as California and Oregon.

With the amount of scholarships given to one football team, Rice and his staff make sure their players are well schooled on how to handle the recruiting process.

"We try to educate the kids and then let them make their decision based on what they feel is best for them," Rice said. "I realistically haven't had a whole lot of conversations with (T.J. and Steven) about who they like and who they don't like. I try to say this is what you have to look at, and the points you have to study about with each schools. We educate them on the process and they look at things individually.

"The first thing they need to look for, the number one reason they go to college is to get a degree. Does the school have the degree they want, the academic support in helping get it? What is the school's graduation rate because less than one percent of all players make it to the NFL . You want the kids to take advantage of the opportunities they are given. Then you talk about depth chart and the coaches and how long they've been there and stuff relevant to the kid. Just all the things you think about when you are changing jobs."

While Notre Dame passes that test on paper it's not that easy of a decision. All the Lincoln talent has seen things differently than Vickers.

Maybe that changes with Bryant who will be considering offers from the top programs across the nation. Eventually he will have to narrow down some visits.

"I think that Notre Dame has a chance to get a visit from any kid in the country," Rice said. "I certainly think they are in the running because like I said, they are Notre Dame and Notre Dame is a special special place."

During spring camp, Bryant or anybody else in his class didn't give him any indication of what college they're leaning to early in the process.

"I get that question a lot," Rice said. "Typically you can look at kids and say he's a Florida Gators fan. For the seniors this year, I haven't seen them display affection to one school or the other. I have young kids that wear Gators stuff, Seminole stuff and even Southern Cal stuff. The seniors this year have not shown an alliance with any school."

That will obviously change soon. Maybe there will be a Notre Dame shirt or two floating around Lincoln for the first time in a long time.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories