College camps help recruits compare schools

Published: Thursday, July 3 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Cottonwood lineman John Martinez spends time with USC head coach Pete Carroll during a football camp in Los Angeles.

Photo provided by Steve Martinez

Editor's note: This is the sixth installment in an ongoing series following the college recruiting process of select high school student-athletes.

From riding around in a golf cart with Rick Neuheisel to discussing his future with Jim Tressel, sometimes Cottonwood High offensive lineman John Martinez can't believe this is his life.

Just as the 16-year-old was growing weary of the coaches and reporters calling him, he packed his bags and hit the road to attend football camps at Ohio State, then UCLA, and finished up with USC.

"It's all pretty amazing," he said.

Martinez, who was named to the first-team offense at the Nike Camp held on BYU's campus three weeks ago, is rated one of the top prep linemen in the country. Timpview offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo is also rated as one of the top lineman, and the two have become friends through the recruiting process. They spent a lot of time together at UCLA and at USC.

In fact, Bruins offensive coordinator Norm Chow and head coach Neuheisel told the boys that instead of working out with the rest of the camp's participants, coaches — who were already sold on their talent — wanted to take them on a guided tour of the UCLA campus.

"They spent almost three hours with us driving around campus in golf carts," said Steve Martinez, John's father. "That is an incredibly beautiful campus. ... Their football stadium grass looked like a putting green it was so well-manicured."

Su'a-Filo attended a camp at Stanford, and then went to the UCLA and USC camps as well. Both players plan to attend LSU's camp together at the end of this month.

Efi Su'a-Filo said his son enjoys the camps because they help him gather information about the schools, as well as learning more about himself.

"I think they've given him a chance to see how he compares on a national level," he said. "They've also given him confidence because he is able to compete with them."

Cottonwood head coach Cecil Thomas said if student-athletes choose their camps wisely, they could help themselves significantly in the recruiting process.

"Kids need to research where they think they can play and where they're wanted," Thomas said. "It doesn't do you any good to go to a camp if you're not wanted ... A lot of offers come out of the camps."

Colts running back Isi Sofele went to Washington State's camp and was offered a scholarship afterward.

"It can definitely help with exposure," Thomas said. Attending out-of-state camps is something Thomas, who played for the University of Utah, didn't have to do.

"We've probably gotten to a different point now," he said. "It's more important."

The decision of players to attend out-of-state camps can be financially taxing on their parents.

"It's not cheap because you have to pay your own way," said Efi Su'a-Filo. "But we want to do it so he has all of the information necessary to make a decision."

Steve Martinez said the camps and campus visits have become their family vacations.

And while players like Martinez and Su'a-Filo don't have to worry about exposure, they do look to the camps to help them make their individual decisions. In fact, when Su'a-Filo attends the LSU camp in a couple of weeks, he'll be going with a different attitude than he had last year when he visited.

"He really enjoyed it out there last year," Su'a-Filo said of Xavier. "This time we're going to go with a little more of an agenda to be objective and take a look at the rest of the campus and the town and not so much just the football."

Steve Martinez said the trips gave them a lot of information, but they also made the upcoming decision even more difficult.

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