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Spring Recruiting Food Stops: Ask a Coach

***Editor’s Note—This is the first of a series that will discuss food eaten on the road traveling for recruiting and other visits

Much like traveling sales people, college football coaches spend weeks and months on the recruiting trail. Like anyone else traveling, there is a real challenge come dinner time to find a good meal, and if you’re adventurous to find something unique.

For college coaches most choose to stay at hotels with free breakfasts (helps stretch that per diem money budget) so that’s not too exciting. Because spring recruiting means trying to get to a number of high schools during the school day and staying through practices or games right after school, coaches generally keep moving right through lunch.

There are no evening home visits, so the one meal when a coach has time to get something more substantial is dinner. There are common options, like national chain restaurants, but what if a coach wants to eat something unique to the area?

One thing that all coaches can generally rely on is a recommendation from the high school coach. These guys often know the small local spots where you can get good cheap eats.

One spring afternoon I was getting ready to leave North-Central Ohio to head to Columbus. Legendary High School Coach Larry Cook mentioned that I should stop at a place he knew.

In the days before GPS, he explained that I would drive into the small town of Bucyrus. At a drive-through beer distributor I was to pull in and order the sausage sandwich (or two which I did). For just a couple of bucks they served up two fantastic sausage sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil so I could eat them in the car.

Coach Cook was right…..most high school coaches know those out of the way places to get the best grub.

One dinner in East Cleveland came from a Glenville High School assistant coach’s recommendation: a Soul Food place that was run by his relative. Dinner (pictured here) consisted of greens, a healthy slab of home-cooked meatloaf smothered in sauce and I cannot forget the huge slab of cornbread that came right from the oven midway through our meal.

But the best soul food I’ve had recruiting?

Years ago recruiting in Jackson, Mississippi I was watching spring practice at Provine High School. There were a couple of other college coaches including Randy Sanders who was at Tennessee then. When I asked the high school coach where to get a good meal, he mentioned that his sister ran a soul food place right around the corner from the high school.

“While you’re in Mississippi you’d better get some real down-home food before you head north” He said.

It was a home style family restaurant with a buffet that included ribs, greens, corn bread, an assortment of fried meat, fried fish and black eyed peas among other things. Randy and I piled up our plates with all this good stuff before I left town to drive down to New Orleans to fly back North.

The challenge was to stay awake because I was so stuffed from all the food I’d eaten. But it was more evidence that high school coaches are often your best sources for delicious cheap grub.

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