HIGH SCHOOL PLAYERS– getting a college football team to look at you may not be as difficult as you imagine. Sure, you need to be a heck of a player for them to seriously recruit you and consider offering a scholarship, but you need to make yourself a recruit-able athlete before that will happen. Here are some tips to get on recruiting radars and pursue scholarships from the schools of your dreams.

Takes No Talents (TNTs)- There are a lot of attributes that coaches look for in prospects— height, weight, speed, etc. But many of the initial things they want to know are character traits that take no talent to possess. Effort. Toughness. Heart. Resolve. Perseverance. The list could go on. Often, these are the qualities that end up determining who gets the scholarship offer when several prospects have similar abilities. In my experiences, the following are the first 3 things a coach wants to know about you before he cares how fast you run or how high you jump:

  1. Can you listen and follow directions? College coaches don’t want to be your parents. They will have an expectation that you already know how to be accountable, coachable, and that you apply the details of their instruction. Nothing drives a coach madder than when he asks you to run a route at 12 yards and you run it at 10½. Or when he coaches your teammate up on something and you step up and make the same mistake because you weren’t paying attention. Believe it or not, many incoming freshman struggle with this concept.
  2. Are you tough? College football is a man’s sport. You will get knocked down. You will fail. You will get yelled at. You will sweat, bleed, cry, and hurt. You still want in? You’ll have to prove it—everyday, on the field. Coaching staffs literally discuss the questions, ‘Is the guy tough, is he a football player?’ in their draft and recruiting meetings. One of the harshest criticisms a football player can receive is to hear that he’s soft. Coaches will always find room for tough football players on their team.
  3. Do you love football? We all love to win and score touchdowns; to high-five and hear the crowd roar. As your career progresses, those results are harder to come by at higher levels. Achieving success on those 13 Saturdays will be a direct by-product of what you do on the other 352 days of the year. Your commitment and dedication will be tested certainly on the field, but just as much with off the field distractions. By the way, you have 14 hours of class accompanied by homework and exams every week. Football isn’t just an after school season activity anymore—you have to make decisions everyday that impact your football career. Coaches will know how much you love football by your everyday effort on the field, and your decision making off of it.

Send your Tapes. You have to let recruiting coordinators know that you want to be recruited. Most schools recruit across a large portion of the country and cover hundreds of prospects every year. It’s easy to get missed. You have to put yourself on their radar, or better yet—on their desk and in front of their eyes. Send your games tapes directly to a program’s recruiting department. Notice I didn’t say ‘send a highlight tape’; coaches want to see how you play on every down— not a collection of the plays where you decided to play hard against the worst team in the conference, accompanied by music that will be muted anyway and flashy graphics used as makeup. Chances are, a graduate assistant will watch the film and if they think you’re worth a look, they’ll get your film in front of a position coach or someone that recruits your area. They’ll send you some mail to get you on their master recruiting database as a prospect.

Go to camp. Almost every college across the country, big and small, offers summer camps to high school players. These camps are staffed by the school’s coaching staffs and are a great chance for them to get an up-close look at some talent of the future. They want to see how you battle against someone better than you, how quickly you apply coaching, and the overall energy that you bring to the field. Summer camps are an extremely valuable way to improve your skills and expand your exposure to schools of your desire.

Take Care of Business In The Classroom, Community. College coaches talk to everyone— your coach, principal, teachers, coaches you played against, and even college coaches they recruit against. As much as they want to know about you on the field, they want to know as much about you off the field. Do you do participate in class & do your homework? How do you treat others at school? How much time do you spend in the weight room, with your girlfriend, or playing video games? When handing out scholarships, schools look for positive team captains, dedicated multi-sport athletes, focused honor students, and upstanding leaders within their schools and communities.

Don’t get caught up in the hype. Keep your head down and keep working hard. It’s great to get recruiting letters from a host of big-time schools, to read your name in the paper and online, and to be wooed and wined during recruiting visits. But not one of those things gets you a snap on Saturdays. Keep your focus on training and continually improving your game. You should never be as good as you want to be; if you are, you’ve prepared to be done playing.

Don’t worry about getting recruited until after your sophomore season. Schools don’t seriously consider a prospect until he’s gone through maturity and gotten snaps at the varsity level. Send your sophomore tapes and go to camps the summer before your junior and senior seasons. Let them know you want to be recruited, and then focus all your energy on improving the player and person they’re recruiting.

Bonus Tip: Not everyone has Division 1 talent, the ability to play in major conference, and only a few make it to the NFL. But many of us love football just as much as the guys who do make it, and there are countless opportunities to keep playing a game you love at smaller colleges across the country. You can receive full or at least partial scholarships to earn an education (especially if you’re a good student), and continue playing the greatest game in the world.

Once you have all the above covered, you’re off to a great start in getting recruited! Keep working hard to give yourself as many options as possible. Once you get a scholarship and pick your dream school, then the real work begins. Prepare yourself for it now!

UPDATE: The following article was published by USA Football with more insights and info on getting recruited.

Tips For Parents and Players on the College Recruitment Process