Coach's Corner

The recruiting of college football players is really a very precarious process that can present some interesting twists. Some things you just don't have control over; for instance - unpredictable weather changes or other acts of God.

It's almost unfair that recruiting visits usually take place during the months of December and January. For those of us in the northern states it's a crap shoot hoping for good weather on recruiting weekends. Schools in California, Arizona, and Florida have a distinct recruiting advantage. On one weekend a kid visits Seattle and it rains or snows, and the next weekend he visits Arizona and it is 85 degrees and sunny.

One year we were recruiting Chris McAllister out of Pasadena. Chris was a good friend and teammate of Lester Towns. We knew he was being highly recruited but Lester and I felt we had a legit shot at convincing him to play for the Huskies. The week before his visit it was cold but really sunny. I had high hopes that it would stay clear and it did.

Right up until his plane landed.

Then the weather proceeded to turn into a full-fledged snow storm. Chris had nothing but light clothes with him, and it didn't matter what we said during the visit. He was flat out so cold that his teeth were chattering. We had dinner at the Metropolitan Grill, and it was snowing lightly. By the time the dinner was over there were 6 inches of snow on the ground. He was more than cool about it, he was totally turned off, and he was totally honest about it. He was not coming to Seattle for college.

He wound up at Arizona where he had a stellar career and matriculated to the NFL with no problem.

Another time we were in the Tyee Center having a recruiting dinner. The scoreboard lit up the night with our highlight tape and all the kids' names and numbers flashed on the giant big screen. We were hosting close to a dozen kids and their parents. Then suddenly the stadium started shaking. I was talking with a recruit from Los Angeles at the time who was with Ron Milus, our secondary coach and LA recruiter. Suddenly I could feel the waves of what was obviously an earthquake. I looked at the kid and at the same time Milus took off running for the exit.

No goodbye, no taking the recruit with him - just a flat out sprint for level ground.

Milus was out of there so fast that I started laughing, and then looked with the recruit to see that the heating tubes were dancing like a giant snake at a Chinatown parade. It was going back and forth and up and down and the whole time the stadium was rocking. I just said, "We'll let's just ride this thing out and see what happens" It lasted about 5-10 seconds but seemed like an hour.

When it was over I high fived with the recruit and he promptly told me he was going to UCLA. I thought he was joking and we had a definite rush of adrenaline. He wasn't kidding as he ended up signing with the Bruins.

The Uclans played a part in another oddity. We had gone to the Ram Bar and Grill for a lunch to finish a really good weekend. I happened to be with Jamir Miller and Willie McGinest. Both were great defensive ends that we were hoping to add to our defense. It was a long shot but we decided to give it a go. Both did really well on the weekend and appeared to have an excellent trip. They were really polite and were laughing and just having fun. When we ordered it finally hit me. They both ordered two hamburgers - the "Husky Burger" that had two-pound patties and a giant bun with all the fixings. Each burger was at least six inches across and the fries for a double order literally filled a large plate (for each of them). They ate it all and we had already had breakfast three hours before.

I looked Willie in the eye and asked, "You're not coming here, are you?" He looked me right in the eye and said, "No, how did you know?" I replied, "Well, it dawned on me when you bit into that second burger." He was eating as if he'd never be back.

He was honest and told me that everyone he ever talked to told him to take a trip to Washington because you'll have a great time and he did. He didn't go to the Bruins but Miller did, and Willie picked the USC.

I was recruiting a kid in Mississippi once, a great running back named Dontae Walker. He was really interested in replacing Corey Dillon and we had a connection with his offensive coach who had worked with Steve Morton, our offensive line coach. I worked all my angles and he really seemed to want to leave the south and become his own man. His uncle was overly involved though and his home life was shaky at best. Plus, it was just sweaty hot and I kept selling the cool weather and that we had no humidity. He looked up everything he could on the computer about Seattle and the Huskies. We were in the game. He was sincerely interested and I had a wonderful home visit with he and his mom (and uncle, of course). When I was leaving his home I ran into a coach from Auburn who was surprised that the kid kept telling him he was taking a trip to Seattle as one of his five official visits.

The Auburn coach asked me point blank, "You do know how things are done down here, don't you?" I replied that we were straight-up and recruiting the kid because of our connection. He told me that he thought we were wasting our time and that probably so was he. I wanted to know why and he calmly told me that the uncle had been bought and paid for by Mississippi State.

Now I knew all about Jackie Sherrill but I thought I would still at least get a visit. The other coach told me the kid would never make it to the plane. I called him the night before his visit and he was still excited. The next morning he missed the plane.

Talk about naïve. I guess I didn't really know how things were done down there.

Toward the end of our era we had a 6-foot-6, 300-pound kid from Texas up on a visit and he had a tremendous time and committed during his visit. He was a stretch but had great potential for development. He turned down Texas A&M - among others - but on signing day or the day before he called and said he had changed his mind and was going to Baylor.

I said, "Baylor! You've got to be kidding me, nobody signs with the Bad News Bears." The kid told me he knew they were bad, but when they came to visit him they also offered his best friend a full ride. I ask him what position his friend played and he told me he didn't even play football. They were going to create a position for him in their video operation and he would get a full ride.

Uh huh.

We lost but we probably won. The kid flunked out of college his first year and his roommate was immediately dropped from scholarship.

A similar story happened with Frank Murphy, who had followed Corey Dillon to Garden City JC and wanted to replace him at Washington. During his personal visit with me (in which I interviewed recruits), he told me he had done time in the big house and I asked about a warrant that was currently out on him. He said it was just over a shoot-out he had with his girlfriend. Now here is a kid being as honest as he could with me and I'm looking back at a kid who has a tattoo on his neck that had the word "Thug" in it. He smiled with his gold teeth and asks if we were "offerin' or what?"

I stalled and told him I wanted to be sure about the charges against him and immediately went into Lambo and told him that I didn't think we should bring a kid in with such a background. If we were going to take a character chance on a kid, then it was usually a local kid who we knew we could develop a support network with.

This kid left and I called his coach and was told the charges would be dropped if the kid went to Kansas State because the judge in his case was a K-State alum. Murphy signed with K-State and the charges were dropped. Of course he was immediately investigated by the NCAA because they had also arranged a car deal for him.

Incidentally, Dawgman ran into him after the Huskies lost at the Holiday Bowl to K-State and said that Frank had really turned it around and done well for himself. Good for him.