Living here in South Bend, IN I have been fortunate to gain great insights on success from players being enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, which is in downtown South Bend. These great former players say SO many things that can be helpful to you in recruiting. Each July or August, they come here to be enshrined. Years out of football, they reflect on their recruiting and what their inner fire was that enabled them to become great in their sport.
Former LSU running back Jerry Stovall had a great perspective on why college coaches often mess up in recruiting. They got so focused on signing kids with the best times or heights or reaches, depending on the sport, that they often miss on the kid that will make plays for them in crunch time.
Because his time in the 40 wasn’t all that hot, Stovall was LSU’s last recruit when he came out of high school. He was sort of a ‘throw in.’ Turns out, he was so good at LSU that he was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame and also played in the NFL. Before being enshrined in the Hall, he shared how a kid with slower times can actually be a better football player than one with fast times.
“You never heard anybody talk about Jerry Stovall’s speed, strength and quickness,” Stovall told the South Bend Tribune. “Never will. I didn’t have ’em. I was an average guy – 6-foot-1, 175, 180 pounds. I ran a 4.6(-second) 40(-yard dash). That’s it. But I would run a 4.6 40 in the middle of the third quarter; the middle of the fourth quarter.
“If you ran a 4.5, and you weren’t in as good of condition as I was. If you weren’t as tough mentally, I was going to catch you.”
In recruiting, players with that kind of ability have to communicate this point to college coaches so that they do not get overlooked. It could be having a rival high school coach that has dreaded facing you for 2 or 3 years reach out to the college coach you want to play for and say, “Hey, this (guy or girl) may not have the usual ‘measureables’ you all look for, but I am here to tell you the kid ate us up every time we faced off, and we could not stop (him or her) down the stretch.”
Stovall, who is now 71, continued to explain why he was able to have so much success in college despite not testing all that great in what today would be called combines.
“I was not a great football player,” Stovall said. “But I was a better football player than I was an athlete. The thing that I brought to the table was that I worked hard. ‘Work’ is a legitimate four-letter word. ‘Hard work’ are two legitimate four-letter words. And ‘more hard work’ is getting toward a sentence of four-letter words.”
Stovall would end up in coaching, eventually becoming head coach at LSU. From almost not being recruited to the College Football Hall of Fame. Wow!
Younger folks will know the name Russell Maryland. The former University of Miami player made it into the College Football Hall of Fame this year. Like Stovall, he was not a 5 star recruit. In a wonderful interview with Al Lesar of the South Bend Tribune, he said things that so many recruits out there who are a bit undersized can relate to. Here is part of a July 21 story on him by the Tribune:
Maryland came to the University of Miami football team as a pudgy, almost overlooked 320-pound defensive tackle from the south side of Chicago.
“My name is Russell, my coaches always told me to hustle,” Maryland said, flashing a wide smile. “‘Hustle Russell, hustle.’
“I felt I was an underdog, not being their top recruit coming to the University of Miami. I had a subliminal thing in the back of my mind that said, ‘You’ve gotta do better than any of these guys here.’
“To a certain degree, I had a chip on my shoulder. I was the fat kid. People looked at me funny: ‘This wasn’t a true University of Miami recruit.'”
So, all Maryland did was work. He wore a path up and down the hill at Tropical Park. He lifted. Ran some more.
The fat kid disappeared. What was left was a chiseled, 270-pound block of intensity.
“On the field, he was a butt-whupping machine,” longtime Miami offensive line coach Art Kehoe told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
The tumblers fell into place. From 1987-90, Maryland defined the defensive tackle position in college football.
“I wasn’t going to be the best athlete,” Maryland said. “So I had to give the best effort.”
Off the field, Maryland rose above the stereotype of “The U.” He wasn’t a party animal. His roommate Mike Sullivan, a Hurricane offensive lineman, dubbed him “The Conscience,” for his rational approach to life. – Al Lesar, South Bend Tribune.
So there you have two examples in Jerry Stovall and Russell Maryland that were not all that highly recruited but yet eventually earned their place in the ultimate destination of college football players – the College Football Hall of Fame. Many of you may face similar challenges. Adapt their work ethic and decision making process, and one day you may not just be a great player, but perhaps one to have your bust in the hall of fame of your sport. No matter your sport, your goal should be to become like Russell Maryland – a butt whuppin’ machine!
Motivational speaker Charlie Adams is a strong believer in the Athleadership message of the NCSA. The former sports anchor is the author of Stoke the Fire Within. His oldest son is currently a NCAA cross country and track student-athlete, and his two daughters have set goals to be college athletes in swimming and basketball.