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A Telling Statement on The State of College Football

Ever wonder why that 4 or 5 star recruit doesn’t pan out? There are a lot of factors but recently during a phone call with a Power-5 Conference coach he made a telling statement.

He said “A lot of kids today like being recruited more than they like playing football.”

It speaks volumes, echoing what I’ve heard from a number of coaches this offseason. College football has become so recruit-centric that it is seen as the end-all/be-all for success on the field.

Certainly no one is going to argue that it isn’t a lot easier to coach talented players. However it is even easier to coach highly-motivated players who always feel like they have something to prove. But sometimes the high-profile/ big-rep guys are “contented stars” who lack that drive.

Before drafting Kerry Collins the owner of the Carolina Panthers asked Joe Paterno “If I give him millions of dollars will he still play hard?” Kerry played 17 years in the NFL.

In the last decade I spent at Penn State we had ten walk-on players who earned scholarships and then went on to the NFL. They had talent but even more so they were hungry to play the game.

Because football is a demanding sport it requires real drive, a year-round commitment. There is a lot of hard work when no one is watching or cheering. And socially players must make smart decisions when the world’s temptations pull them the other way.

In talking with coaches around the country, recruiting has become a series of ever more grandiose promises of better facilities, more exposure, more fun and easy street right to the riches of the NFL. Every coach is your best friend and every student on campus will love you.

Universities are spending tens of millions of dollars on football complexes with barber shops, laser tags, arcades, miniature golf courses, movie theaters, indoor golf simulators, lap pools, lounges and nap rooms. All of this is designed to wow recruits while also becoming a source of hours of endless entertainment doing things other than academics or football.

As if that wasn’t enough to warp recruiting, there is the social media element. Players in ninth or tenth grade are being identified and rated as great players. They’re building their own social media brands. By the time they’ve even set foot on campus they arrive with a celebrity-esque status that can gradually erode determination and drive.

In an era where fame is seen as a currency unto itself, that 5-star guy must understand that in college on day one he is at square one to prove himself all over again.

If they understand that they can achieve their dreams. If not they will finish college with a bunch of social media friends and followers all scratching their heads wondering what happened.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Peristence and determination alone are omnipotent.” –Calvin Coolidge

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