The 2018 recruiting cycle is coming to a close, and on Wednesday, numerous young men will decide the path that they will follow for the next three to five years.
National Signing Day can shape lives as well as teams, but an unintended issue is a sense of entitlement from fans that these young men owe them something.
I’ve been on both sides of this recruiting thing. I remember seeing a story after I attended Bobby Bowden’s football camp. The headline was “Who is FSU’s first commit for the 2002 class?” and with the story was a picture of me and 10 guys I had gotten to know through camps or because they were local prep stars in the Tallahassee area. Boy, do I remember the phone calls my momma got on our house phone (yes, I know that sounds dated).
Then it was an unofficial visit to see the campus on a game day. I used it as an opportunity to see a game for free, as I had never attended an FBS game in person despite living just 15 minutes from FSU. (Before I became a recruiting “commodity,” I had been a mainstay at Florida A&M games.)
Recruiting during those now-archaic times didn’t really start heavy until after the high school football season. Official visits were about having fun, hanging out and seeing places you never had seen before.
I remember asking questions of other recruits during the process. A lot had never stayed in a fancy hotel or had been on a plane. Me? I was just happy to eat steak. Steak was my favorite food during that time, but I only got steak when we went out to eat and we would get a piece of my mom’s. On the recruiting visit, I was like, “I get my own steak?” And it was at Silver Slipper, which was the fancy restaurant in Tallahassee at the time.
Simple and plain, like new FSU coach Willie Taggart claims his offense will be – a plane, a nice hotel, a steak. Of course, there was more to it than that, but it pales in comparison to what recruits go through now.
I get to see it firsthand; I own a performance center in Jacksonville, and we have had the opportunity to see many kids go to all levels in a variety of sports. These kids are being asked to make one of the most important decisions of their lives in a much different environment than when I had to make mine. When I was a recruit, not everyone had internet access, and cell phones were for important people.
I had a prospect out of my program who had 15,000 followers on Instagram following his commitment to Auburn after his sophomore year in high school. He has a blue check mark on Twitter. He has done nothing of importance except project well as a prep prospect – though I do think his career will far exceed mine.
It can be tough to cope with this newfound stardom, though those who have gone before can offer advice. These prospects are young and impressionable, and who doesn’t like being told they are the best thing since sliced bread? I get to see the tweets because I follow some of my clients, but they show me tweets, too. It’s hard to not get drunk off the celebrity. Still, I tell them all it’s best not to overdose on being famous.
Being famous has pitfalls. With a flip of a switch, or a new offer, the fan base that loved your every move and threw rose petals at your feet can, suddenly, hate your guts. You’ve done nothing but potentially impact their fictional recruiting ranking, but you now can be forced to process things that, quite frankly, you’re not ready to handle.
It can be worse for prospects who just got offers and aren’t hip to “the rules.” I saw it first-hand with wide receiver Jordan Young, who encouraged another recruit to commit on a recruiting trip to Tennessee. You’d think Young slapped someone’s kids. Tweets saying he was immature, that he needed to stop playing with emotions, that he needed to grow up grow up, etc., etc., flowed from fans. All he wanted to do was enjoy the process.
Nothing is better than having pride in your school and your team, but this is one of the best times these young men will have. It also can be a trying time, and too many fans forget that. It’s difficult to figure out which girl you want to take to prom, let alone figuring out where you want to go to college. And the decision the prospects make means folks who don’t know them are going to hate them – and they will tell them they are hated on social media.
Remember, fans, that this week is about them. Enjoy the prospects who have signed to become the newest members of your favorite program. Congratulate those who have an opportunity to extend their playing careers while getting an education.
Well, at least until September. If they choose a rival, then all bets are off.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/recruiting-prospects-not-fans/