Much has been made in the last few weeks about Stanford 2004 commit Alex Fletcher, who had been waiting on his admissions response from Stanford. Articles have popped up on Internet sites representing rival schools in a race for this nationally ranked center, and they have leapt at any signs of weakness in his Cardinal commitment. Those chinks in the armor might have been verifiable for a time, though, as he was dealing with the frustration that can come with the only true academic admissions application process in Division I-A football.
"When I talked with those guys, I was definitely feeling down," he admits. "I had stuck my neck out for so long for Stanford, and I was feeling the pressure."
But that pressure was relieved in a big way Monday when Fletcher's father called Cardinal head coach Buddy Teevens. The Stanford coach told him to call back a little later after he had a chance to check with the Stanford Admissions Office, and that second call yielded tremendous news.
Alex Fletcher had been accepted to Stanford University to join the 2004 entering freshman class.
"When I got home from practice, my dad told me right away," the younger Fletcher recalls. "I can't tell you how excited we all were. I immediately called Coach Teevens to talk with him and thank him. He was very careful to tell me, though, that I have to keep my grades up. The Admissions Office was gracious in offering me a spot at Stanford on the merit of my academics through my junior year, but you can't just coast from there. I can't slack off; I need to still keep everything up at the highest level I can my senior year.
"But how awesome is it to be accepted by Stanford? I mean, it's the only [Division] I-A school you have to work to get admitted. This really means something. It's like Coach Teevens [Dartmouth alum] told my dad [Princeton alum]: 'Princeton and Dartmouth are great schools, but Stanford is the next level.' You can have the best education in the country, but still play top athletic competition. It's an unheard of combination."
Fletcher not only called Teevens; he also promptly called quarterbacks coach Bill Cubit and tight ends/special teams coach Tom Quinn. Those two coaches have become very close with the fiery offensive lineman, and he does not mix words in his gratitude for their relationships. "They're both just really nice guys," the recruit comments. "They haven't ever complained with all my phone calls, and have helped me through this whole process. They're both just awesome and are a big reason why I'm so committed to Stanford. But you know, that's part of what makes Stanford different from other schools. At other places there would be one coach recruiting me, or maybe a head coach plus one area recruiter. But at Stanford every coach really recruited me. Coach Cubit and Coach Quinn have led the way, but I've felt like I've been a top priority to all the coaches - from [Dave] Tipton to [Steve] Morton to [Peter] McCarty. Who else was going to send three different coaches across the country to my school like Stanford did already?"
But that didn't stop some of the top schools and hottest recruiting coaches from coming after Fletcher full bore during the last year. He tried to keep his recruitment down to a dull roar in the beginning by only sending his junior highlight tape last December out to a select few programs. Fletcher already sensed that his pursuit could be a vigorous one, so he has tried other tactics as well to quell interest. Schools who requested his tape were often met with non-replies; phone calls were not forwarded on from college coaches; and requests for him (sent by way of his high school coach) to call college coaches were not returned.
Despite all those efforts, and very over-the-top comments about his desire to attend school at Stanford, the top programs in the country poured offers at his feet and wrote him endless streams of letters. His offers included Stanford, Penn State, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, USC, Virginia, Texas, Alabama, Boston College, Oregon and more. Fletcher says that the two programs who tried the hardest and longest to sway him from his Stanford commitment were Penn State and USC, with Joe Paterno writing countless handwritten notes and Pete Carroll making a trip all the way to his high school during the May period - including a three-hour sitdown to try and sell him on the rising tide of the Trojans. Virginia and Al Groh also made one heckuva surge in the last few months.
"I was never not committed to Stanford," Fletcher asserts about all the recruiting attention and temptation. "Like a girlfriend, I've been completely faithful to her since February. Some things you've seen on the Internet badly misquoted me, and that upset me and my family. But I'm 100% Stanford."
One passage in particular that raises his ire came in a story last week on LionNews.com:
"If I was to go to Penn State, my mom would probably want me to do the honors program. My mom's really, really academically oriented. All she really needs to do is see the light and see that she's just got to go out and probably see Penn State for herself and she'd probably want [me] to go to Penn State."
Fletcher read that story and could only shake his head. "They totally left out that I said I would look at Penn State only if I didn't get into Stanford," he protests. "And no way she would have let me go there. My mom would only sign a letter of intent to one Division I-A school in the country, and that would be Stanford. Other than that, she'd have me go to Princeton or one of the other Ivies. There's too much of a drop-off in academics anywhere else."
Speaking of Princeton, Fletcher and his St. Anthony's teammates were recently there as a team for a football camp, which brings us to the current business of football - now that all the recruiting gymnastics are in the past. The Stanford commit thought it was amusing that he saw so many familiar faces at this camp which he had competed with and against just a week earlier at the Cardinal's football camp. Indeed, it is a small world for the academically elite. But this was a camp with athletics at the forefront, and Fletcher made his mark in testings and one-on-one drills. Recruitniks will particularly take note that he ripped off 42 repetitions in the bench press of 185 pounds, and that he ran a 4.9 40.
With fall practices starting at St. Anthony's in just a month, Fletcher is excited to have this recruiting hurdle done before a big senior season ahead. "We should be ranked about #15 in the country this fall, and I think we could really make some noise," he muses. "We have 10 guys back on offense, though we need to get a new quarterback established. We had a great guy last year - a Division I talent - but his dad was a coach for the New York Jets and they moved to Texas. Still, we're a big running team and I'm ready to knock a lot of guys around. We don't play both ways at St. Anthony's, but I'll be doing that for us this fall to help out on defense. So will [fullback teammate and Penn State commit] Matt Hahn. Our defense could be suspect, so we have to give them a big lift."
St. Anthony's will open the season September 13 against their toughest opponent on their entire schedule - Poly Prep from Brookyln. If they get past that NYC rival, don't be surprised to see the Friars run the table. There would have been one more goliath game on the schedule against St. John Bosco from New Jersey, but that game was lost as the would-be opponent maneuvered to put De La Salle on their schedule.
In talking about his school's program and the nature of Long Island football, Fletcher also shares an interesting insight. "We just had a captain's practice today, which means it was voluntary. But we had like 45 of 90 guys show, which was really impressive. The reason you can't ever expect more than than during the summer is that so many guys at St. Anthony's play lacrosse. And they are traveling all over the place right now. Lacrosse is really big around here, and if it weren't for lacrosse, we wouldn't have a lot of the athletes we have." That is an interesting twist on prep football that fans on the West Coast may not be able to relate to, but a curious one for sure.
Though preparation for the big 2003 season at St. Anthony's is hot for Fletcher right now, that won't stop him from making yet another trip out west in the next couple weeks. He is going to Sacramento on July 25 in what will be a Stanford Recruiting Summit, of sorts. Also flying in will be Minnesota standout cornerback Brandon Robinson. Fletcher will be staying with wide receiver recruit Austin Collie, while Robinson will be staying with quarterback recruit C.J. Bacher. All four of the recruits are ranked in the top 35 in the country by TheInsiders.com at their positions. A unifying theme is that all four have the Cardinal as their #1 favorite school or in their top two, and they all spent countless hours together at the recent Stanford camp. They bonded like crazy and were inseparable. Less than a month later, they are putting together a little reunion.
"We just had to get back together to hang out and work out," Fletcher describes. "We'll be in Sacramento some, but we'll also be down at Stanford a couple days working out. We all want to go to Stanford together, and this is our way of taking a first step together."
Once these summer trips and camps are behind him, though, don't expect this recruiting animal to pull back. He has a grand vision for when he will take his official visit to Stanford, and what else he can achieve that weekend. "The next step is to get a date for my official visit and get everybody I have been talking with to come out with me," he says. "I've been working every top guy in the country that Stanford is and will be recruiting because I want to come in with the top recruiting class in the country. I'm talking about guys like Darius Walker, Jeff Byers, Bobby Dockter, Austin Collie, Seth Watts, Brandon Robinson - more than I can name, and a lot I'll forget if I try. I want us all out there together for the mother of all official visits. It'll probably be some time in January, but I'm waiting for Coach Teevens to get back to me with what date he wants. That weekend will be what makes this recruiting class an unbeatable one in 2004."
Between now and then, 'Coach Fletcher' will continue his relentless recruitment of all these top classmates by phone and by electronic communications. He feels he has already laid the groundwork for them to follow, both by his words and his actions. "I think a lot of them look up to me in a way for sticking my neck out there," he allows. "I don't think anyone has ever made such a public commitment to Stanford so early like I did back in February, without being accepted. That was a huge risk I took, and I could have looked like a fool. But that's the testament of how I feel about Stanford and how much Coach Teevens and this school is worth it. I've made my example and I've already built the relationships with a lot of these guys. Now I just have to hammer them on getting their own applications submitted so that we can continue this momentum. I want as many guys as I can get to submit their applications by September 1; if they don't, it'll just get harder during the fall. Once football takes over and school heats up, your time totally goes away."
And what parting message does Alex Fletcher have for the legions of Stanford fans reading The Bootleg? "Trust me, folks. I'm not the only commitment to Stanford out there right now," he glibly reveals. Though unlike Fletcher, these commitments are of the silent variety and in all likelihood will remain so until such time that the respective recruits receive word on their admissions applications...
In other St. Anthony's news, the rising senior has been signing the praises of an up-and-comer in his high school who he says will be a hot talent in the 2006 class. 5'9" (and growing) cornerback Brendan Brown is having a big off-season for the Friars. Fletcher is sticking his neck out right now in calling this kid a Division I-A talent, even though he is just a rising sophomore and has yet to play his first game at the varsity level for St. Anthony's. "He's going to be a bigtime player - mark my words," the captain Fletcher predicts. "And he's a great student. I'm bringing him to Stanford - he's my protege."
We'll be sure to put him in the 2006 recruiting database as soon as we can, Fletch.
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