The airborne virus that plagues the world today wasn’t a concern when I was trying to get recruited for college football. I attended middle and high school camps throughout the 2009 - 2012 summers, and by 2013 I had participated in five Regional and All-American invitational camps and combines. It wasn’t enough.
It was clear to my family and me that I was passionate about football. I wanted to make an impact on the football program that wanted me the most. That wishful thinking wasn’t enough for offers to come flying through my mailbox.
Despite gaining regional and national recognition I hadn’t earned a starting spot on my high school team junior or senior year. I practiced with a high motor, watched my film, and stayed disciplined during the offseason workouts. I knew my work ethic would make me successful at the next level. I was a good teammate. That wasn’t enough.
In my personal experience, self-promotion was imperative to the recruiting process. I used a recruiting service to share my 2012 junior year highlights, camp skill videos and combine times to prospective coaches.Through the service, I sent out nearly 200 emails across different levels just to get my name out there.
About 15 teams from D-III to D-I responded with interest, and other programs required additional tape or slightly better combine times. I wanted more options, but there was only so much more I could do at the time. The pressure to perform senior fall elevated, especially with limited opportunities.
Midway through my senior season, I sent more highlights. The additional game tape backed up the summer camp films and more D-III coaches contacted me. Finally, near the end of my senior Fall, I did enough to get verbal confirmation from a college program that wanted me.They were convinced I had great potential and could contribute to their program.
The process took two to three years. Patience was important. I achieved my dream with persistence and hard work.
The Recruiting Norms
In the “normal” world, contact and evaluation periods are the most important part of the recruiting process. Coaches and scouts get face time with prospects in various ways allowing them to build trust and relationships.
They visit the prospect’s high school campus to watch Thursday’s practice and spark impromptu conversations with the recruit's coaches.
After Friday night’s game, the collegiate coach or scout can approach the player and give a small pitch about their school. Evaluators even find promising younger talent that they weren’t initially told to scout at these games. More opportunities for the involved parties arise with this casual, physical visit.
Official visits to college campuses are also an integral part of the recruiting process. High school prospects hang out with potential future teammates, parents interview the coaches they’re entrusting with their child, and everyone gets a better understanding if the college is the right fit.
When a prospect does enough to get the college’s attention during the contact and evaluation periods, they’ll likely receive verbal and or scholarship offers. They got the exposure their individual skill and high school pedigree granted them and are on the cusp of receiving that National Letter of Intent or D-III Celebratory Signing Form.
More high school recruits can be discovered on the latter end of the process. The process intensifies as athletes scramble to look for their new school and colleges decide who they’ll offer their final spots. Prospects need better times and more game film for the program to fully commit to this student athlete. Unfortunately, the pandemic’s lockdown throws a wrench in this process.
When the lockdown hit the United States in the spring, people were forced to make their business operations safer in order to sustain their seasonal practices. This had a major impact on the college athletics recruiting process as well.
The NCAA passed a blanket waiver to allow more phone calls with recruits so people wouldn’t have to worry about making those physical college visits.The recruiting surge this past spring made coaches heavily rely on Zoom and Facetime to make recruiting calls. Collegiate programs made stronger efforts to recruit the top prospects, the ones that have already done enough to get their attention.
Unfortunately there are still prospects who relied on the spring season to rise on the recruiting boards. They needed to show more film with them in pads, get invitations to regional and national showcases, and make more opportunities to physically visit college campuses. More had to be accomplished.
The Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) suggested that recruits post skill videos and keep in contact with programs they are interested in attending. Then in late spring/summer when camps were allowed, they became ever more important to getting high school students to their dream schools. Showcasing their skills at combines and other camps are proving to be just as powerful as game film.
Smash Routes recently attended the Midwest Elite Showcase in Minneapolis, Minnesota hosted by Potenza Sports where high school athletes competed against some of the best in the region. Camera crews were racing from field to field to gain footage for these athletes’ skill videos.
We met the founder of MVP Sports Recruiting who was there in support of some key prospects. He stated that more and more families are “reaching out to him” during the lockdown to send “more film to coaches.”
He also said coaches are using his service more as a means to engage with athletes. Football programs don’t want to miss out on top recruits as they focus on the top players they know that they will make an impact.
Players that need more proof are either brushed aside or offered by a school that may not be the best fit. There needs to be more to help high school athletes and college coaches, so they look to new alternative methods.
Smash Routes Improving the Recruiting Process
Athletes want to present their best to college programs while scouts and coaches want to trust who they’re inviting into their program. Many factors go into this process including a player’s ability to comprehend a complex playbook. Coaches and scouts have gauged this knowledge in various ways in the past, most of which require contact through player discussions and whiteboard tests of the ‘X’s & O’s.’
With SMASH Routes, both sides of the recruiting relationship can highlight this knowledge through the use of mobile technology, making the process easier and more standardized, and necessary in a contactless world.
Our playbook gaming app is an interactive way for athletes to train and test their football knowledge. Game trials focus on the alignment, assignments, and execution of plays in the player’s own team playbook.
In-game player ratings provide quick insight on a player’s comprehension of their playbook, as well as how much time they’ve spent in it, giving coaches and scouts an easy way to qualify a prospect’s potential and work ethic. So, not only can players prove to have the physical capabilities shown on film, but also that they have the aptitude to grasp football concepts needed to succeed at the next level.
There are more players on the recruiting bubble this season than we’ve ever seen before. They need to work even harder to promote their talents, and get creative with how to stick out in the crowd. The analytics in Smash Routes can prove whether they study and know the playbook, helping programs determine who they can trust to learn and play in their system.
On the other side of the equation, football programs across the country face an uncertain future, some of whom don’t even have a season scheduled for the upcoming school year. Players are more likely to transfer and take advantage of the relaxed rules to find a spot on a team who have games scheduled.
“It’s going to be a mess, but if you do your homework, you’ll lose a couple and you might gain a couple.” - Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards shared in Sports Illustrated.
Smash Routes is designed to help everyone involved through the mess. We believe high school athletes and collegiate football programs should have a better understanding of each other before one fully commits. So we’re here to help facilitate a recruiting process that is faced with new challenges, many of which could be here to stay.
Going from Good to Great
I played Defensive End and Defensive Tackle at Williams College and felt that I made an impact from my first steps on to campus as a student athlete. My versatility and hard work was appreciated and rewarded with playing time later in my career. I turned from a good teammate to a great teammate.
My senior year at Williams College, we finally performed the tradition of striding down Spring Street for the first time in six years after defeating rivals Amherst at Homecoming. It takes 573 steps from the gates at Farley-Lamb Field to the town’s barbershop where Freshmen decide if they want a haircut or not from the Seniors. My senior class and I made a difference and restarted the positive, winning culture that belonged to the Ephs.
I wouldn’t have discovered Williams without doing the research and they wouldn’t have found me if I hadn’t promoted myself. Through diligence on both sides, we learned that we were a match near the end of my high school senior fall.
If I had SMASH Routes to test my football aptitude and further show my dedication to the sport, I believe I would’ve found Williams faster. The fun mobile game would have eased the stress of the recruiting process and still shown whether I’d be a fit for their program. And by putting in work in the app, they would have seen my commitment to developing myself as a player mentally, and not just physically.