I had the opportunity to be on Regional Radio Sports Network one night to talk Recruiting with high school football coaches. Show host Paul Condry and co host Donnie Smith produce a show called “Coaches Box” that was soaked with insights on Recruiting that particular night.
The show was at an Applebee’s, so we all got to eat a meal before air time. I sat in a booth and visited with Fairfield HS (Goshen, IN area) head football coach Bob Miller.
Coach Miller had a story about persistence that about knocked me off the table. He is also the Track and Field coach. He said back in 1997 he had a very fast track kid named Matt Rush. He was a two time state qualifier. Matt was determined to get an engineering degree from either Notre Dame, Western Michigan, Purdue or Tennessee. He was also going to run track. His challenge was that since he was from a small school out in the corn fields no one had really heard of him, especially at places like Tennessee.
Coach Miller told me Matt called these schools about three times a day. “He would do it before Weight Lifting and after school,” coach Miller said. “They kept telling him ‘the Coach wasn’t in.’ He didn’t quit, though.” Now, for some kids that would be like beating your head against the wall, but Matt had blistering times. He knew he was capable of playing at that level. Eventually, he would get through to them. Finally, Tennessee listened and brought him down. They had never heard of him. He fell in love with the place. They liked him. He got partial athletics scholarship. His 3.9 GPA in high school really helped his overall package.
Coach Miller said Matt was part of four NCAA D 1 Outdoor Track and Field national championship teams. He got his engineering degree.
“You have to be persistent,” Coach Miller said. “I tell my kids at Fairfield High that you have to have a way to market yourself or be marketed. Colleges are not going to find every kid.”
Being persistent and playing college sports can lead to incredibly exciting lives. Matt is now in Norfolk, VA. He is a civilian contractor with the Navy and redesigns battleships and aircraft carriers. “He emailed me a picture of him flying to a carrier on an F-14,” Coach Miller said. “He said look at my life now! Not back for a kid from Indiana cornfields!”
The radio show also included legendary former Penn High football coach Chris Geesman, author of the acclaimed book “The Geesman Game” (Corby Publishing). I could listen to his stories all day and night. He had a story that said a lot about how challenging D3 sports can be. He said he had a former player at Penn High that was at first courted by Purdue. The player got excited. Purdue dropped off and then Ball State got interested. That had him excited. Hey, it was still D1. They decided to sign a kid from Michigan instead. Then, Franklin College got interested in him. He took a trip down and came back and said, “Coach, our high school is bigger.” He didn’t think the D3 thing was his cup of tea, so he backed off. Then, he called Coach Geesman later and asked him to call the Franklin coaches to say he did want to play college football. He realized his window of opportunity to play college football was closing.
A few days into his first days of practice at Franklin College that August, he called up Coach Geesman. He said he was thinking of leaving and coming home. Geesman thought that the young man didn’t care for D3 football. That wasn’t the case at all.
“Coach, I am thinking about leaving because I am the worst player on the team!”
All of the coaches on the radio show shook their heads at the misconceptions that many D3 football programs aren’t tough as nails. I am not saying everyone is, but there are plenty that have outstanding players. Pierre Garcon of the Washington Redskins played at D3 Mt. Union. I was a sportscaster across America for 23 years who covered college sports at all levels, and I can tell you they are intense! I loved covering D1, D2, D3, NAIA and Junior College because I found that coaches and athletes at all levels compete fiercely! Be open to all levels.
A few years ago, a softball pitcher named Shelbie Jones of Mishawaka High School (one of the top Softball programs in the Midwest) signed with a NAIA University, Marian University. Check out her credentials:
Jones was a three-time First Team All-Northern Indiana Conference and two-time All-State selection. She set school records in career (67) and single-season (22) victories as well as career innings pitched (593) and no-hitters (seven) during her stellar career with the Cavemen.
Those stats came against quality competition! She signed with Marian University and later transferred to Purdue Calumet.
High School athletes have got to realize how competitive many small college programs are out there.
Charlie Adams was a sports anchor for 23 years, where he saw many families struggle with the recruiting process because of a lack of education on the subject. Charlie is a supporter of NCSA’s message of Athleadership and often speaks on the recruiting process. His son was a college athlete and his oldest daughter will be a freshman college swimmer starting this fall. Since 2005 he has been a motivational speaker with his keynotes and seminars often being bases on sports-related themes. Corporate leaders that bring him in as a speaker often tell him that they seek to hire former college athletes because those athletes bring the ability to manage time, lead, compete, set and reach goals, and work as team players because of their college athletics background. Charlie has written four books on peak performance and the power of attitude. For more information on his programs go to StokeTheFireWithin.com