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New FSM Feature: Recruiting 101 – Part 1

Franchise Sports Media


This is part 1 of Franchise Sports Media’s four-part series on recruiting. Griffin Kemp gives you an in-depth look into the recruiting world from a former Division 1 football player’s perspective.


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Picture this…

You’re a high school football player who dreams of playing college ball. This is a goal that you’ve had since you first started playing the sport as a child. As you enter your senior year, you’ve established yourself as a starter, gained attention from a large number of great colleges, you’ve been awarded almost every accolade a high school player can receive. Things seem to be lining up perfectly for you to achieve your goal of playing at the next level. That is, until the final game of the season, and you suffer an injury that results in every college pulling their offers, leaving you on signing day with nothing but a braced-up leg and uncertainty surrounding your future.

That is my story as a high school football player here in Las Vegas, and despite how bleak the story may seem, it has a happy ending. Unfortunately, that’s more than a lot of athletes with similar accounts can say.

During my college career, I had to take multiple routes to receive an offer finally. I started by playing for a Power 5 school as a preferred walk-on, then taking a chance and relocating states to play for a junior college, until finally receiving a full scholarship to play for a Division I school in California. The route I took was never what I envisioned for my college career. However, I realized I had very little understanding of college recruiting or how to navigate through it to give myself the best chance of getting a scholarship. I was lucky enough to have coaches and people around me that helped me fulfill my childhood dream. Now, I want to do the same for the athletes playing here in Las Vegas today.

Recruiting 101‘ kicks off a series of articles in which I will be lending my experience and the knowledge I’ve gained through the years to educate athletes on different routes they can take to play at the collegiate level.

Starting, I’ll give insight into the setting in which most athletes experience the recruiting process for the first time–in high school.


Developing a Highlight Reel


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An athlete’s highlight reel can be the deciding factor in whether a coach deems them worthy of receiving a scholarship. A 10-minute reel filled with unnecessary plays will lose a coach’s interest fast, while a quick reel with a small sample size of plays will fall short of catching a coaches’ attention. An athlete’s reel should be efficient and intentional, ensuring to showcase their physical capabilities, as well as their mental adaptation and control on the field or court.

Coach James Jones, a Division I football coach of over 20 years, has recruited for multiple programs and has seen plenty of highlight reels throughout his career. With his vast experience, Coach Jones is fully aware of how important it is for an athlete to produce an outstanding reel to set themself apart from the pack.

Coaches get so inundated with films that if you don’t jump off the screen, it’s going to be hard for you to keep their attention,” Jones said. “The highlight is a snapshot or a resume. Everything you put on it has got to have some bang to it.

The first few clips of an athlete’s reel should be reserved for top plays and highlights like sacks, touchdown runs, home run plays, spikes, field goal kicks, interceptions, etc. These top-performance plays will hook a coaches’ attention and convince them to continue watching through to the end. The longer a coach views the reel, the better the chances are of an athlete standing out.

Following the big highlights and top performance plays come the fundamentals. Fundamental plays showcase an athlete’s technique within their respected position, as well as their technique in outsmarting the opponent. Grasping a firm understanding of plays and running intelligent playthroughs shows coaches that the athlete is more than their physical capabilities. Fundamental plays do not have to be big highlights, but they are crucial in showing coachability and preparedness for the next level of competition.

Lastly, hustle plays are a great way to finish out a highlight reel. Hustle plays usually are best used to show passion and drive for the game itself. A perfect example of a hustle play would be a clip of a football player running down a ball carrier 20 yards up the field or a volleyball player chasing a ball way out of bounds to keep it in play. Coaches love athletes who love their sports and those who play through the whistle and give 100% effort. Those are usually the types of athletes who earn spots on a team.

A stand-out highlight reel should include all three play types and run no longer than four minutes. This will attract coaches’ attention and entice them to invest more of their time in researching the athlete.

Once the reel is perfected, the next step is leveraging it to market and brand the athlete as a potential prospect.


Marketing Yourself.


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Social media has been a highly impactful recruiting tool for college coaching staff across the country to make connections with potential prospects. Many coaches use social media as a way to learn more about players they are recruiting and to find players who are flying under the radar potentially. Just as college coaches utilize social media to find desirable prospects, athletes can take advantage of this tool to market and promote themselves as one of those prospects.

Melva Thompson-Robinson, the mother of UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, has been a part of the Las Vegas football recruiting scene since her son played here. As the mother of a former top high school prospect, Melva knows how impactful social media can be in getting athletes into great programs.

“I can tell you now; Twitter was huge in terms of my son being recruited,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Use social media, look at it as a tool and use it to market yourself.”

The best start for an athlete to begin to market and promote themself would be to create a personal sports page. This page should have a detailed bio, including the school/team they play for, the position they play in, and a link to their highlight reel. This will allow followers and others who view their page to identify them as student-athletes immediately. Athletes should also be sure to post their completed highlight reel on their timelines at the end of each season. Great highlights from even freshman year can grab a coach’s attention.

Another great way to get noticed would be to follow coaches and recruiting coordinators from prospective and local schools. A great deal of information can be learned about the programs they run based on the content they post. Some coaches use different social media platforms, like Twitter, to share their recruiting trail and what they may be looking for in potential prospects. It also doesn’t hurt to reach out to the coaches via direct message to make a formal introduction. Some information included in these messages should be the year in school, current GPA (within good standing), and position played.

Nikki Hughes, the mother of one of Bishop Gorman Football’s top prospects, is another parent with experience in the recruiting process. Her son, Jeremiah Hughes, is currently going through the process as a junior and has multiple Power 5 offers. Hughes credits her son’s ability to market himself on social media as one of the reasons he was able to stand out amongst other athletes in Las Vegas.

“In my personal experience, I have found that my son messaging coaches that have their direct messages open and introducing himself has been the better way to get in the door,” said Hughes. “Who is going to know that Jeremiah Hughes lives here in North Las Vegas unless he gets his name out there? You have to market yourself; you can’t expect other people to do it.”

Although social media is an excellent tool for helping athletes gain attention from coaches, misusing it can bring negative attention and disrupt an athlete from achieving their goal. Some certain expectations and responsibilities come with being a student-athlete. Coaches look for players who are accountable and on whom they can rely. Posting or responding to tweets or images that could be seen as a red flag may cause a coach to reconsider an athlete as a potential issue instead of an asset to their team.

Melva Thompson-Robinson also knows that although social media is a huge marketing tool for athletes, even the slightest mistake can lose significant opportunities.

“Kids need to have a Twitter account, and that account needs to be clean. You don’t need to be on there talking crap about other teams or other players,” Thompson-Robinson said. “You don’t even need to like or retweet inappropriate things. Some people say, ‘well, I didn’t say it, I just liked it’ people see that. Show that you are a good person, and it can work out for you.”

Social media usage has the potential to either make or break an athlete’s chances of getting an opportunity to play in college.

Student-athletes should be careful to remain diligent in their use of social media, especially when using it as a tool to market themselves to prospective coaches. A single like or retweet can disrupt years of hard work and could potentially cause irreparable damage to chances of attaining the goal of playing at collegiate levels and beyond.


Camps and Tournaments.


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The offseason presents plenty of opportunities for athletes to perform, reform, and transform their talents outside of their regular in-season schedules and routines. Attending camps and tournaments are great offseason activities to keep athletes engaged and in top shape.

For instance, football players can participate in seven-on-seven and lineman challenge tournaments, competing with other top recruits and getting exposure from college coaches. These types of competitions are not as physically demanding as playing in an actual game but are nonetheless opportunities that should be taken seriously.

Melva Thompson-Robinson was able to see first-hand just how impactful offseason events could be after her son was able to gain attention from some of the biggest names in college football from participating in a seven-on-seven tournament.

My son goes to a seven-on-seven tournament, and somebody was there from Alabama who picked up the phone and called Nick Saban. By the end of the weekend, Dorian had an offer.” Thompson-Robinson said.

Although everyone who participates in these offseason events may not walk out with offers from top college programs, there is still an excellent opportunity for exposure and practice.

Attending college camps during the offseason is another great way to gain exposure to coaches. Most athletes, throughout their high school career, begin to receive invitations to attend camps as they get attention from different schools. College programs use these events to get recruits in their building and see how they look physically in person. Recruits are put through various drills based on the position they play and are used as a way for coaches to gauge technique.

Despite great opportunities, these events may not be the most cost-effective, so athletes must be mindful when deciding which ones to attend.  Athletes should not feel as if they missed out on any opportunity if they cannot travel far to attend a particular camp since there are still local camps that they can attend. Attending a local camp is great for providing athletes with a better perspective on where they stand as a prospect for collegiate play.

Coach Jones describes the benefits of attending a local camp versus one farther away from home.

You have to be a local hero before you can be a hero outside of your state,” Jones said. “If you go to a camp and you don’t knock the socks off a school down the road, why is anyone else going to give you a scholarship?”  

Coaches are expected to bring in the best players, especially those located in their state; therefore, attending a local camp can be more beneficial for prospective athletes in the long run.

Coach Jones shares how a coach’s responsibilities present a stronger argument for attending a local camp.

The coaches that are in the area close to you get in trouble if they miss a guy. Coaches have to prioritize their own home state,Jones said. “If you’re a Mountain West guy and you get out and go to Fresno State, a position coach at UNLV is going to have to answer some questions from the head coach.

Participating in offseason camps and tournaments are great recruitment opportunities, provide great exposure from coaches, and can be cost-effective and convenient when locally attended.

So far, each of the previously discussed methods for a student-athlete to get recruited has had the common theme of being cost-effective and can be completed by the athlete or someone of their family or team. The highlight reel, leveraging social media, and attending local tournaments and camps for exposure, are all relatively low-cost initiatives athletes can take to market and promote themselves. The following methods are not as cost-effective, and mishandling of either can prove far more inconveniencing to a student athlete’s career.


 Recruiting Services


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Every year, college recruiting has become more and more competitive. As players compete to gain the limited offers available, services here in Las Vegas have taken the opportunity to capitalize on athletes’ desires to get scholarships. These individuals promise high school players better prospects in exchange for compensation, charging players and their families upwards of $3,500 dollars.

It’s understandable why an athlete or their parents may take these types of deals, considering how complex the recruiting process is and the frustration many athletes feel when the offers don’t seem to be coming in. For many, this may seem like the best chance at getting an offer, but in all honesty, it simply isn’t.

The big selling point for these services is the promise of having connections with college coaches and the ability to get noticed. Many coaches are more personable and would not allow their players to sign up for these recruiting services–especially with such predatory and misleading practices.

Being a parent of a former high school recruit, Melva Thompson-Robinson has had plenty of encounters with these types of services. She discovered early on that the work that they were promising to do was something that could be done without outside assistance.

In my son’s eighth-grade year, I had talked to an agency about helping with recruiting. When they said how much it was, I told them no, I don’t have that kind of money, and honestly, it was all stuff I found we could do ourselves,Thompson-Robinson said.

Those experiences do not say that all recruiting services are predatory or scammers. In fact, some reputable services are reliable in helping student-athletes get recruited. The simplest way to differentiate between a reliable recruiting service and a scam is whether or not they’re asking for money. Those that do should be avoided.

Melva Thompson-Robinson gives a perfect example of a reliable service and details how they operate to provide players the best chance possible.

XO’s digital gets paid by the colleges and universities to get the film from high schools so that they can know who to scout,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Coaches call them and say what positions they need. XO”s goes through their system and pulls up their lists to send them. The colleges pay for services, not the players.”

Understandably, there can be many frustrations when every possible step has been taken to get an offer, but they are simply not coming in. However, athletes must understand that having an opportunity to play at a collegiate level and beyond is an outstanding achievement that requires hard work, focus, dedication, and overall passion for the sport. Athletes must be wise when going through all aspects of the recruiting process and take solace in knowing that hard work will get them far.

Despite all of the previous methods being laid out and explained, the essential element of the recruiting process that will ultimately dictate whether there is an offer or not is the athlete. More importantly, the effort, dedication, and consistency they will put into achieving their goal.

Student-athletes must treat their playing careers as professionally as a business. They must ensure they uphold their end of the agreement they intend to go into with their respective coaches. They must take care of all of their responsibilities, both on and off the field, including staying on top of their academics and treating every practice just as important as a game. Student-athletes must commit extra time outside of regular team activities in perfecting their craft. The privilege to play at the next level is not awarded to those who only put in the required time, but it goes to those who are willing to go above and beyond.

It is essential to keep in mind, however, that putting these methods into practice does not guarantee that an athlete will get an offer. Nonetheless, an athlete willing to grind and work hard despite the outcome is far more likely to.


Next in the series, we detail walk-on and junior college opportunities targeted more specifically for collegiate football. Be sure to follow Franchise Sports Media to stay up to date!


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