Going from high school football player to college football player is quite the transition for a teenager, and then you throw in being away from your family and friends for the first time and all the newfound responsibility that comes with being on your own and things get even more complicated.
Taking the next step, and committing to play at the college level is a huge decision, so after talking with a handful of college coaches, and drawing on my own experience as a player and coach at the college level, I came up with 8 things that college coaches want to share with high school recruits before they make the decision that playing college football is right for them.
While I understand that our core audience is coaches, what I've compiled below is aimed at the high school student athlete that is considering playing football at the next level. I encourage you to share it with your guys accordingly.
1. Your high school coach is the most important recommendation college coaches seek
It's a message that Urban Meyer harped on during a camp in Columbus, and his words had college coaches around the country throwing their arms up and shouting "AMEN!" The high school coach is around for good times, and bad, and is a first hand observer of not only your play making ability, but also your attitude, character, work ethic, commitment to the program, and how you respond to adversity, often for four years or more. Those are all traits held in the highest regard by college coaches. Coaches will also talk to the school administration, teachers, secretaries, and even janitors at the school, but the coach's word carries the most weight - BY FAR.
Earn the recommendation of your high school coach. Not your uncle, your 7 on 7 coach, or anyone else. The opinion of the high school coach goes further than anyone else. Period.
2. 99% of the guys you're going to play with were the stars on their high school team just like you were
One of the hardest things that a lot of freshman have to do once they get to campus is learn how to swallow their pride a bit. Chances are really good they were the best player on their high school team, and one of the most recognizable faces in their hometown. But once they get to the college level, they're surrounded by guys who were once in the same shoes in their hometown. Adjusting to the new hierarchy can be too much for a lot of freshman.
3. You're going to have to make much different sacrifices than the typical college student
Nearly all college freshman football players are heading out to live on their own for the first times ever, and with that comes with temptations of all different kinds including more time for video games, parties, alcohol,fast food everyday, and a variety of others. You're going to have to learn how to manage your time between school, practice, work outs, homework, a (responsible) social life and sleep without having an adult constantly looking over your shoulder. That requires a unique level of commitment that not everyone is cut out for.
Before committing to play football at the next level, have an understanding of the sacrifices that it's going to require...or just go and have the typical college experience without taking on the additional expectations of an athlete.
4. You now represent the entire college/university in everything that you do
As a football player on a campus big or small, you're going to be under a microscope. If you make a bad decision, it's something that doesn't just effect you, and word around campus isn't that "Johnny made a mistake," it's more likely something along the lines of, "Did you hear what that football player" did. Right or wrong, that's the way it is on most college campuses. The same goes for what you say and do on your social media - which is just one of many reasons that college coaches comb them so carefully during the recruiting process.
With that in mind, here are 7 things that college coaches told us that they want to see in a recruit's social media.
5. Your character is just as important as your talent
Sure, college coaches want to stockpile their rosters with the best available talent out there, but another are they also have to keep in mind is how a prospect fits with the team dynamic off the field. Very, very few college coaches are going to be willing to take a guy that is going to be a cancer in the locker room and a distraction off the field regardless of his talent. Most coaches would much rather take a hard-working kid with great character and average to above average skill that will develop during his time on campus and be an asset to the team and greater campus community.
6. When college coaches tell you and your parents they'll treat you like their own son during the recruiting process once you get to campus, they're dead serious.
This may be something that a lot of recruit's hear during the recruiting process, and as a former college coach (and one time high school recruit as well) I can tell you with confidence that if a coach is saying that to you during the recruiting process, you can bet they mean it. That's something that clearly goes for the good times and the bad. If they're going to treat you like a son you can count on being disciplined when you slip up, a hug when you need it most, and an over the top celebration of your successes on and off the field as well.
That's a message that parents love to hear, and while recruits may find having another parent around at college annoying at first, that should be someone that you ultimately want to play for because your college coach should love you like one of his own every day.
7. Playing college football has the ability to forever change your life
Every early morning workout, every conditioning test, every time you dominate a one-on-one battle, and even when you get knocked on your back, and every time a coach gets on you for doing something wrong...all of it is preparing you for your next step in life. Those that sacrifice time, sleep, and the typical college experience will be rewarded with life lessons that help them become better sons, fathers, brothers, husbands, and people. You might not see it right away, but as you get older, you'll learn to appreciate what the game, and your coaches, taught you during your time in college.
8. Don't forget about the people who helped you get to this point
You didn't get here on your own and chances are good you won't be able to get through the next four or five years of the ups and downs that every college athlete faces without someone from your past to lean on. Pick up the phone and call your mom, dad, high school coach, or sisters and brothers once a week or so and let them know how you're doing, how practice is going, and how classes are. A little effort in that department can go a long way to a household that is learning on how to adjust to life without you around all the time while you're miles and miles away enjoying the college experience.