University of Richmond '06 - Football
Throughout high school, I never had any dreams or visions of playing a college sport. I had always been a pretty good basketball player because of my size, but had never played football until my freshman year. I never imagined that it would be my eventual ticket to a free education and the best experience of my life.
Though I enjoyed basketball the most, I just seemed to be a natural at football, because of my leadership and my never-quit attitude. My team always seemed to thrive on the energy that I brought into each and every game. After my junior year, I all of a sudden started receiving awards and recognition from out of nowhere, which was the first time that the thought crossed my mind of potentially playing at the next level. Though I was definitely not the strongest or fastest player on the field, I never ever quit on any play and kept my intensity and my team's energy up for the entire game. I had a solid work ethic and that is one of the main things that college coaches look for in their recruits.
I was very excited when all of the recruiting letters began pouring in, but it was very overwhelming. I received letters from top programs like Penn State University, all the way down to small D-3 schools. I never wanted to count any schools out however, because things in the recruiting world can change very quickly.
The whole recruiting process was the most stressful time in my life. I lost a lot of sleep at night. I saw the University of Richmond, and new that it was a perfect fit for me. The players, the coaches, the school, everything about it was just right. However, at the time I had a high school girlfriend, and was very close to settling on Towson University, because it was much closer to home. However, I never got the same sense of team, or sense that I belonged at Towson, like I did at Richmond. I realized that Richmond was where I needed to be, and it turned out to be the best decision I have ever made.
Whatever you do, don't look at the immediate impact of your decision. Odds are that you will get homesick; you will be overwhelmed with work, and the speed of the game, and the pressure from the coaches. Getting through all of these things will shape who you are as a person, and will make you into a much stronger individual. You will be able to handle life's challenges more easily having been a college athlete, and you will have no regrets.
Almost every college program offers some sort of camp in the summer. This is basically a legal way for coaches to see what players can do up close, though they are very limited by NCAA regulations. If there are any schools that you are really interested in, make a great effort to get to their camp. This will let the coaches know that you are interested in them, just as they are interested in you.
You should also make every effort possible to get your name out into the recruiting world. Join recruiting websites, make video tapes, and call coaches. It is okay to brag as much as you possibly can; it will only help you out in the long run. Treat your senior season as an audition, as every game could be your ticket to a free ride. If you make a mistake on the field, don't feel like scouts are going to pack it up and give up on you. Everybody makes mistakes, just make up for it on the next play or in the next game. As I said, there is NO replacement for hustle on the field.
Recruiting trips after the season are one of the most fun times that you are going to have throughout the whole journey. You are only allowed five official visits so be sure to pick schools that you would legitimately want to consider going to.
Some things to consider on your official visit:
School. Odds are you will not go pro. Will you end up with a degree that you will be proud of once you graduate?
Location. Is it too far from home? Too close? This is important, as many freshmen will get homesick and a weekend trip home can be enough to help you make the gradual transition.
Coaches. These are your new parents. Be sure that they are honest and truly care about their players. Don't fall for the old "come here, and you will play right away" line, which is used frequently to lure in recruits. If you are good enough, you will prove that you can play right away on the field, not through promises.
Players. These are your new brothers and will become the closest friends that you will ever make. You will go through the toughest few years of your life with them. Be sure that there is a sense of team among the players. Ask them all the questions that you can, about coaches, school, social life, etc.
For more information check out the Active Recruiting 101 special section.