I get this question the most. I was a recruiting junkie from way back. In fact, I used to call Tim Prister and Lou Somogyi constantly when I was in high school and college and bug the crap out of them. I couldn't afford Tom Lemming's 900 line, so I figured they were cheaper. And I've always remembered that both took considerable time to speak with me on the phone, and I've always had a great amount of admiration for both for that reason among many others. I still remember calling Tim four times the day Kory Minor announced just to find out what happened. I don't think I ever told Kory that though.
How I got started? I happened to be in ESPN chat chatting with some guy who knew a lot about recruiting. Everyone wanted to talk football, but this guy and I only talked recruiting. His name was Jamie Newberg. Jamie had just started a business called Border Wars covering Georgia and Florida recruiting. I believe the year was '95. I was stunned by how much he knew. I wanted to know what he knew. I asked if he needed help. He said he did but couldn't pay me as he just started his business. I said I didn't care, and that's how I got started. I worked for Jamie for awhile, and Newberg introduced me to some good friends at Studentsports.com and I worked for them as well. I worked for both places for two years and both gave me my start, so there would be no Irish Eyes without Newberg or Student Sports. So don't ever badmouth them. ?
While starting out, I had a good friend from Omaha, "Heavy," who was/is a graphic designer. I asked him if he'd help me build my own site. I chummed the waters with a few adult beverages and Heavy was on board. "Mike Frank's Irish Report" was soon born. 400 subscribers at $30 my first year and I was on my way.
I owe my first big break to none other than Tony Driver. As some hack out on the internet (and trust me, this is what many thought, and probably true), I wasn't taken very seriously. All attempts made for connections and sources were met with a closed door. I was just some guy on the internet in Nebraska. In fact, I doubt any of these people knew I was from Nebraska. My guess is most didn't know about me at all.
But like all breaks in life, you have to make your own, and Tony made mine. Actually, I suppose I made mine, but Tony held up to a pact he and I made early on. I doubt Tony remembers this or me at all. Some day I'm going to track him down and find out.
Anyway, I got to know this running back from Male high school in Louisville really, really well. He and I just clicked. I have no idea why. We just really got along well. I made Tony promise that when he made his decision he'd tell me first. He agreed and I kept reminding him as the year went on.
For those that remember, Lou Holtz was the coach when Tony first started to be recruited as a senior in high school. The Irish were the strong favorite early, but Holtz later resigned and the Irish were in a world of hurt with Tony Driver. Tony didn't live in Louisville but lived with a guardian so he could play football in Louisville. The weekend before signing day Tony went home to speak with his parents about where he was going. The week before Tony told me that Notre Dame was out of the race and it was down to FSU and the local schools. I broke the news to the ND faithful, we cried.
But, since Newberg was my buddy, I reminded Tony that we made this pact, and I wanted to help Jamie with the scoop. Tony told me to call his guardian on Sunday. He was to announce on local radio at a certain time and I was to call two hours before his announcement and his guardian would tell me.
So I made the call and I think his name was Bruce. Don't hold me to that, but I think it was Bruce. Bruce said, "Mike, Tony told me to tell you he's going to Notre Dame."
I said; "Bruce, no, that's not right. Tony said it was down to FSU and the local schools. He dropped ND."
Bruce said; "Mike, it's Notre Dame."
I told Bruce; "Listen, I'm going to make a phone call, and my entire future depends on this phone call, so if you screw me with this, you've screwed with my entire future."
Bruce said; "Mike, Tony told me to tell you and only you. I wouldn't do that to you. I know how much Tony likes you. He wanted you and only you to know. He's going to Notre Dame."
So, like a freshman looking for his first date, I picked up the phone with all my courage to make the call…..
"I know you don't really know me, but I've got some information for you," I said to a particular person who will remain unnamed. "Tony Driver is going to announce for Notre Dame on a Louisville radio station today at X time."
The phone went silent, then I got "who is this?"
I explained, and the voice said; "No, that's not right, he said ND was out last week."
I explained the situation as calmly and precisely as I could. Then I heard; "You know, I'm going to make a phone call to Bob Davie, and if you're wrong I'll never speak to you again."
The funny thing is, a lot of Notre Dame fans didn't believe me either when I told them the news.
Like in anything, you've got one shot, and Tony gave me my shot. So if you see him, tell him I owe some beers if not a lot more.
A few years later I developed a good relationship with a linebacker from Texas named Grant Irons. Grant had a brother who had recently starred at Michigan, Jarrett. He had Nebraska ties as well. The Irish were just kind of this school hanging in the mix throughout most of the process.
But like Tony, I became fast friends with Grant. All along, Michigan was rumored to be the strong leader for Grant. Grant, in private, let me know that ND had a much better shot than most felt.
Leading into Grant's visit to ND I made a proclamation that if Grant picked Notre Dame I'd paint my butt blue and take a picture and plaster it up on the front page of my Web site. I didn't actually anticipate that Grant would actually choose ND. Grant did choose Notre Dame so I was in a dilemma that I didn't anticipate. At the time people asked me if I actually did paint my butt blue. Of course, I lied, and said I did but nobody would want to see the pictures. ?
Since we had one "blue butt" guy and we landed him, people then wanted me to create a new "blue butt" guy every year. The next year it was a defensive back from USC named Darrell Rideaux. ND didn't land him. I can't remember who the designated guy was the next season but the Irish didn't land him, either, so that was the end of the "blue butt" guy.
I remember there was one day we were chatting in Irish Eyes chat. Notre Dame had suffered another bad season and a good number of Irish Eyes posters happened to be bashing the coaching staff and a particular head coach pretty much all chat. Out of the blue some guy starts scolding these ND fans about how they weren't really Notre Dame fans, and how he felt it was awful that they'd be slamming Notre Dame's coach and coaching staff. He was a paying customer so I felt he should be able to say his piece.
As the conversation went on, it quickly became clear that this was actually a player currently being recruited by the Notre Dame staff. That player was a running back who ended up going to Ohio State. I confirmed it was actually him in chat as I called him once he stated who he was. He told me he didn't want to play for a team whose fans showed such little support for their coaching staff. Anyone know who that was?
A few years back the Irish were recruiting an elite offensive lineman from Florida. He and I also became very friendly and he was one of the nicest kids I've ever spoken with. He ended up choosing a school in state in the end. The Irish were in another of their down seasons, and he decided to stay home and play for the home school.
In January of that year I had heard the Irish were speaking with this kid again and he was thinking about taking a visit that weekend. This shcool must have also heard the same thing I guess.
I call this particular player on the phone and he informs me he is in the middle of an in-home visit with a coach from this school. I apologize and tell him I'll call him later that evening.
He was just about ready to put down the phone and I hear; ‘who's that.' (I'm paraphrasing here because I can't remember the actual words)
The player explains and then the voice said; ‘give me that phone.'
On comes this coach from this school and he says ‘who are you.'
I explain and then I hear, ‘why are you calling? He's going to X school. Just ask him.'
I explain why I was calling and he said; ‘why would he want to visit Notre Dame? He's going to X school. He wants to go bowl games. He wants to win bowl games. He wants to win Championships. When was the last time Notre Dame won a bowl game? In fact, what are you guys doing this January? Oh, you're not going to a bowl? When was the last time you won a championship? Why would he want to go to Notre Dame? He's not going to visit Notre Dame.' And then he handed the phone back to the kid and started laughing really loud.
The kid, embarrassed, apologized and told me to call back later. I didn't call him, but he called me and later apologized and then said he had thought about visiting Notre Dame but he decided against it. He thanked me for always being very cordial and apologized again for the very uncomfortable conversation I had with said coach earlier in the evening.
The irony? Said coach got his butt fired a few seasons ago. As a long time assistant, his unit wasn't up to snuff. In fact, it was one of the worst units in the country. Karma buddy! To this day, I swear if I ever run into that guy……
Anyway, just wanted to have some fun since there really isn't a lot of going on right now. I hope you enjoyed this little story. Feel free to ask me more questions on the boards and I'll answer as many as I can without trying to get myself into trouble.