College camps help recruits compare schools

Published: Saturday, Oct. 10 2015 5:55 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) 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.

Pat Ruel, offensive line coach at USC, instructs Cottonwood's  John Martinez during summer training camp in Los Angeles.<BR>
 (Photo provided by Steve Martinez) Pat Ruel, offensive line coach at USC, instructs Cottonwood's John Martinez during summer training camp in Los Angeles.
(Photo provided by Steve Martinez)
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.
"After 10 days," he said, "the only thing we know for sure is that they all have their advantages and disadvantages."
John agreed that if anything, a gut-wrenching decision has become even tougher.
"Those three schools already had me sold, but they blew me away," he said of the camps. "If Ohio State does offer me, it's going to be an even harder decision."
Sitting down with storied coaches like Tressel and Carroll can be intimidating for a teenage boy.
John said he was nervous meeting with the head coaches after each of the three camps he attended but quickly got over that as he found all of them easy to talk to.
"Jim Tressel is one of the best head coaches I've ever met," said John Martinez. "He seems like a guy who hates to lose, and he has the will to win. He also takes good care of his guys. I heard him asking one of them about how he was doing in a class. I think I could take him for four years."
He said UCLA was "crazy. I thought it was really cool," he said. "At first it was weird to be that close to Hollywood, but the campus was great. I liked coach (Norm) Chow and coach Neuheisel a lot. They told me don't choose a school just because of football; choose a school because you want to be there. If you're just there for football, you're going to hate it. I liked that. Also, their weight training coach reminded me of (Cottonwood) coach Cecil (Thomas)."
It was Martinez's second time attending a USC camp, and he said he was even more impressed this time than he was last year.
"There is more energy and intensity about football," he said. "The coaches were always pumped up and ... the game (modified version of football) we played in the stadium was so intense it was like a real game. It was really cool and coach Carroll is great."
While Martinez has ruled out in-state possibilities, Su'a Filo's father says he has not.
"A lot of people think he's leaning toward out of state because he's gone to these camps, but that's not the case," said Efi Su'a-Filo of his oldest son. "He has tremendous respect for both coach (Bronco) Mendenhall and coach (Kyle) Whittingham, but he has to be able to compare everything, and we need the best information to do that."

E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com

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