I am a 33 year old man who is overweight, balding, and only moderately successful in his career. Relative to the athletic achievements of the average college football recruit, I have not done much in my life.
But I have dreamed of doing a lot of things, college athletics among them. There was once a time that I thought I had the talent to play college baseball. The problem? I wasn't very good at baseball. I was good enough to play for my local high school team, but as things turn out, that wasn't nearly the accomplishment that I thought it was at the time.
So, aside from My Player mode on NCAA 14, I never went through the recruiting process.
I have, however, talked with hundreds (probably thousands) of kids who have been elite enough in their craft to go through the recruiting process. Based off of their experiences, and the things that I have learned in talking with a multitude of sources throughout the years, I have some thoughts.
Let's call this "The Official Recruit Playbook By A Guy Who Knows Some Stuff But Never Got To Implement This Playbook On His Own."
ALWAYS SAY YES
The first and most important thing a recruit can do? Say yes. To everything. All the time.
"Do you think you would have any interest in gray shirting?"
"Yes, coach. I can do that."
"Would you be open to a position change?"
"Absolutely, coach. I would be open to that."
"Will you commit to our school and shut down your recruitment?"
"100%, coach. I'm all in."
"We heard you committed to their program, but we want you here. Would you consider flipping your commitment to us?"
"Yes, coach. You make a great point. I'm in."
Always. Say. Yes.
There is some power that has transitioned back to players in recent years. The emergence of the transfer portal and NIL laws have given players the ability to control their destiny a little bit more. But, largely speaking, once a player arrives on campus, it's the program's show and the player is just a character in the cast.
The recruiting trail is really the only part of the process that a player gets to control exactly what happens next. It's also the only part of the process where a player kind of controls what a coach does. If a program really wants you, they will wait for you. If a program really wants you, they will let you dictate the terms of how and when.
Sure, they will try to strong arm you and push you into a commitment occasionally, but just say yes and then get back to what you were doing. If they want you, and I mean they really want you, then you hold every card.
If you're a fringe player who is only hearing from one or two schools, you have to think about that too. But as long as you're saying yes to both schools, you've mitigated your risk in a way that you still end up with a college option no matter the outcome.
If I was being recruited, I'm saying yes no matter what the ask is. Tell schools exactly what they want to hear because that is exactly what they are doing to you.
IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT THEN DON'T WAIT
Saying yes to everything buys you time to sort things out and figure out what it is that really matters to you. But if you already know what matters to you and where you want to go, then don't wait for a hat ceremony or National Signing Day to close down the process.
Seriously. Just commit.
If you know then just save yourself the stress and end the process. There is no sense in drawing things out. Commit. Start recruiting your friends. Work on building your future.
There is no hat ceremony that is worth the drama of the recruiting process. There is no official visit that is worth missing out on a chance to go and do exactly what you want to go and do.
So if you know then stop playing games. End the process and be happy with your decision.
If you don't know, then play the game and say yes to everyone until you do know.
RESEARCH INDEPENDENTLY AND TRUST NOBODY
George Costanza went to buy a car one day. He knew what he wanted because of what he had researched in Consumer Reports.
The car salesman sold him another car and George fell for the hook because he was told the Jon Voight had previously owned the car. George assumed it was Jon Voight the actor, and the car salesman let him assume that and certainly presented it in a way that anyone rational person would have assumed that.
But, lo and behold, it was not Jon Voight the actor's car. It was John Voight, the periodontist, who had previously owned the car. Now, George was stuck with a car he didn't want that was owned by a previous owner that wasn't impressive.
College football coaches would do the exact same thing on the recruiting trail - even the honest ones.
It's in their best interest to do so! They might say things like 'Look, you have to decide if this is a fit for you. It's not a fit for everyone. So if you don't think my school will work for you then we can just move on right now with no hard feelings.' But, they don't mean that. They just don't. They are trying to build trust with you.
Do your own research. Go talk to players. Go talk to professors. Go talk to academic advisors at the University. Go talk to alumni.
You simply can't trust the words of a coach. It's not that those coaches aren't trustworthy, but the nature of their job encourages them to present the best features of the school and keep the less good things in the background. That's what they do.
So you can't trust their words as if it is gospel truth. You have to find information on your own.
Like the Russian Proverb that Ronald Reagan usurped as his own says, "Trust, but verify."
That's it. That's the plan. There are other things that I would do in the recruiting process and there are certain things I wouldn't do, but these are the three things that every recruit should do. If you do these three things, you're going to be happy with your decision in the end.