Lights, Camera, Football

With recruiting becoming a bigger and bigger business camps now come with a bit of spectacle.

Kierre Hawkins entered a dark tent and stepped onto a platform, cameras following his every move. The Ohio State tight end commit struck pose as the platform began to rotate and white fog swirled around him.

Such is the experience for the high-end recruits at the The Opening Columbus Regional camp. They’re literally placed on a pedestal while those around them blow smoke.

High school recruiting has become big business, a necessary part of building college football success. As a result, the best high school players get new opportunities like those presented at Nike’s regional camp at Ohio State Sunday. For recruits it’s all part of the fun.

“It’s like I’m about to get drafted or something,” Hawkins said after leaving the tent. “I didn’t know nothing about this. This is great though, this is fun. It was real nice that they did that.”

Whether through the filming of Scout spotlight videos (look for those later this month) or the awarding of camp MVP awards, the best high school players in attendance Sunday were consistently reminding of their hard-earned status. Considering that the best The Opening Columbus has to offer are going to play their college football at some of the most high-profile programs in the country, getting exposed to some spectacle in high school is just another form or preparation.

Josh Myers, a 2017 Ohio State offensive lineman commit, welcomed all the hype that came with attending the camp.

“I think it’s good for us,” the 6-5, 285-pound prospect said after the conclusion of the camp. “It’s really cool, honestly, to get to experience all this. It’s helpful for the future as athletes that are going to play in college. It’s a good thing to get used to.”

Players were able to get a feeling for what it is like to play college football at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center before and after being run ragged on the facilities turf fields. While the camp is an experience in and of itself, the goal for the elite prospects is to make it a piece of a larger process.

The very best the day had to offer – including future Buckeyes Jonathon Cooper, Jake Hausmann and Demario McCall – received invitations to Nike’s The Opening in Eugene, Ore. The desire to receive that invite, which is only handed out to players attending one of the regional camps, has greatly increased the spectacle surrounding the camp, Scout’s Ohio recruiting analyst Bill Greene said.

“It’s amazing,” said Greene of the hype surrounding the camp which he has attended every year since its inception. “Kids want to go to The Opening. They’ll do what they have to do.”

Because of the desire to attend the prestigious camp in Oregon, regional camps continue to grow, exploding in popularity and in amenities since the first Columbus camp, Greene said.

For Hawkins and others it’s all part of the fun that goes into the opportunity to compete against the best.

“I wouldn’t know where I am at if I didn’t come today,” the tight end said. “I try to go to big events so I know where I am at, what I’ve got to work on. This is like a test for me to see how much better I got. I’m not really stressed about it.”

As far as being put on a pedestal? Hawkins didn’t seem too stressed about that either.

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