WHEN YOU GET down to it, recruiting is a fairly simple process of supply and demand. High schools provide the supply of football players; the colleges handle demand. But there is such an abundance of prospects that the supply always exceeds the demand.
Hurt feelings ensue.Who hasn't played high school football and secretly felt that, given the chance, he could have made it in the big time?
There are several parties involved in recruiting, chief among them being the high school coach, the college recruiter and player. All three have to agree in order for a player to get his letter of intent. If all three don't agree, the prospect finds himself writing in next year's freshman English class: "Why I didn't play college football."
One week after national letter of intent day, we take a look at the parties involved, and what is involved in landing a football scholarship.
THE COLLEGE COACH: This is the smartest guy in the process because (a) he is the person who gets paid to be incredibly smart and (b) if he is not smart, he doesn't have a job.
University of Utah recruiting coordinator Craig Ver Steeg says a coach will look at brains and brawn and read all the clips. But if you are a recruiter, on on first glance, you look for two things:
You look for big. You look for fast.
And you look for them in the same package.
The kid may be an Eagle scout, honor society and a candy striper at the hospital . . .
"But if you're eyeballing a kid for the first time - and not considering character and other things - you're looking for big guys who can move. That's the bottom line," says Ver Steeg. He says the rule of thumb can apply to almost any position.
Legend has it that Bronko Nagurski, the Minnesota and Chicago Bears running back, was discovered plowing a field. The Bronk was pulling the plow.
Had Nagurski been found today, the first thing they would have done was lined him up and checked his time in the 40.
The Bronk would have flunked.
THE PLAYER: This is the guy with the goods. Sometimes he never gets a chance. Sometimes he doesn't have the right goods. Tooele lineman David Vorwaller spent last Wednesday morning waiting for the phone to ring, hoping it was BYU on the line. He knew by then that it probably wouldn't be, but he waited just the same.
Vorwaller had all the paper credentials: USA Today all-America honorable mention. All-state first team. Grades good enough to get in engineering school. But Utah and Utah State weren't interested. Apparently, at 6-3, 210 pounds, he didn't have the size they were looking for.
BYU, where Vorwaller's father played, stayed in casual touch.
SUSC was interested, but his plan was to play Division I football. When signing day came and went, he cast his lot with Snow College, hoping of matriculating to a major school.
"It gets me a little mad with the schools going out of state so much," he says wistfully. "I wish they'd look instate a little more. Utah players are as good as anybody else."
But on signing date, nobody was convinced. BYU signed only two Utah freshmen. Most of the rest were from California and Texas.
In the process, Vorwaller learned another rule of thumb: Write-ups are one thing, mailing address is another.
THE PREP COACH: This is the expert adviser, the guy who's been there. The prep coach knows all about recruiters. He knows just how good the player is. His job is to screen out all the flim flam men and with a gentle hand, aid the young player in selecting a school. Sometimes it is his job to convince a college that his player is good enough.
Springville High Coach Ray Newbury, who has sent numerous players on to major college careers, is quick argue that the recruiting process is not as negative as some would say - despite its warts. The system may be flawed, but it is not broken. He can't find anything too wrong with a system that prvoides an estimated $40,000-$60,000 worth of education, housing, food and football to a player.
He admits the constant visits to the school can be distracting. Many of the major coaches in the west have shown up at Springville to recruit his players. And they aren't there to look at the scenery.
"They'll pull kids out all the time. There's not a class that is sacred - history, math, chemistry, they'll pull you right out. Then when the kid comes back in class, his mind's not on it," Newbury says.
Newbury also allows that every year a coach will try to get him to influence a player towards his school. "I won't do that," says Newbury. "I gotta love that kid no matter where he goes."
If he has learned anything over the years, it is that playing the expert advisor is part of the job. Influence peddling isn't.