Refresh. Work for 30 minutes. Refresh. Another 15. Refresh. Get up. Get coffee. Sit down. Refresh. This is my morning routine as the days draw closer to National Signing Day — I refresh a forum dedicated to recruiting news for the football team of my alma mater, the University of Florida. But I lie to you already. This isn’t just my morning routine. Since Clemson beat ‘Bama, this has been the primary focus of not just my internet browsing, but my phone in general. A twitter account dedicated to following this year’s recruits, an Instagram, a subreddit. If I can follow it, I fucking have it. Every update, I get it. I check my phone so much that my girlfriend has begun to wonder if I have something going on the side. In all honesty, that might sound more sane than the truth. I am living and dying on where a high school senior I don’t even know decides to go to college. But it’s not just me; it’s every single diehard fan out there (and maybe some Die Hard fans out there, too).
February 1st, thousands of high school seniors will be faxing in their letters of intent to play football for universities of their choosing. Yes, I really said faxing. The most important decision of some 18-year-old kid’s life depends on technology that became antiquated before he was born. And somehow, that is the least ridiculous part of the whole process.
These kids are assessed from the minute they enter high school varsity athletics by scouts who make a living assessing them. Let me elaborate. At some point in these kids’ lives, before they even come close to graduating high school, people with years of experience will quantify how likely they are to succeed at every level of competition for the rest of their lives. That is their job. That would be like someone looking at your PSAT score from 10th grade, and then expertly determining how likely you were to become the next Supreme Court justice.
These scouts then report back to informational services with each child’s score as a potential prospect to play football at the next level. One of the more popular scouting services is 247sports, and their scores mean the following:
110 – 101 = Franchise Player. One of the best players to come along in years, if not decades. Odds of having a player in this category every year is slim. This prospect has “can’t miss” talent.
100 – 98 = Five-star prospect. One of the top 30 players in the nation. This player has excellent pro-potential and should emerge as one of the best in the country before the end of his career. There will be 32 prospects ranked in this range in every football class to mirror the first round of the NFL Draft.
97 – 90 = Four-star prospect. One of the top 300 players in the nation. This prospect will be an impact-player for his college team. He is an All-American candidate who is projected to play professionally.
That’s right. Scouts can not only determine whether you are going to go pro, they can tell you whether or not you are one of the greatest people to have ever set foot on a football field in years. If you are a five star, you’re a sure thing… of course that’s only if you don’t take into consideration how well you adjust to a completely new coaching staff, extremely improved competition, and a significant increase in academic workload. But that’s not that important is it? All that matters are those sweet sweet ‘crootin stars on your ranking. But how does one get them?
With all the high schools in the country, and all the players on rosters of schools with football teams, it would be impossible to sift through all of the data to know who is the absolute best from just stats and game tape alone. This is why development camps and showcases have come into existence. Every year, players are invited (or pay) to attend camps to showcase their skills. This is all for a shot at being invited to games that pit the best high school players against each other on national television. A few of note are the Under Armour and U.S. Army (hey, more recruiting!) All American Games. All of these are scouting opportunities.
Another option is attending a sports-focused boarding school. Say you’re a high school student that doesn’t want to let all that pesky school-doing get in the way of your athletic development. How are you going to do that in a publicly funded school with a state (or, God forbid, nationally) set curriculum? Pssht, what a typical big government move. You know who doesn’t want you playing QB for the Patriots and banging Victoria’s Secret models? That’s right, big government. Fortunately, this is America, and you can privatize just about anything — especially your education. For the low, low price of over $70,000 a year, you can work with the best coaching and development staffs, live on-campus by state-of-the-art facilities, and dedicate your entire high school career to developing your talents at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. What’s $300K when you’re adding another star on that ranking, guaranteeing you millions when you’re drafted to the NFL?
Let’s pump our brakes real quick with all that NFL talk, though. You may have spent the $300k for special school, attended all the camps, played with every other great high school athlete in the country on TV, and ended up with a 5-star rating. But what makes you think you DESERVE to just waltz on into the NFL? You clearly won’t understand the dedication required to be a professional athlete with such little going for you. You know who would? A college dropout. You’re still going to need at least three years of playing amatuer ball in college before you’re even allowed to enter the professional leagues.
This is why we have National Signing Day for college football teams. This is the kind of insanity we are dealing with. An entire industry created and developed to rank high school children at how good they are at sports. We force them to attend colleges that they don’t even have to graduate, thus fueling an even bigger industry in college athletics (which we won’t even touch here). Why? All because the biggest industry has a rule that says they have to go to college… for at least three years.
This may all sound nonsensical to you, but to me, it makes perfect sense. Where I am from, football is religion. My messiah didn’t die on a cross, he runs a 4.4 second 40-yard dash. My church isn’t held in some puny steeple, it’s in a stadium that holds 90,000 people. My Christmas isn’t just on the 25th, but every Saturday from September to January. The colors aren’t red and green, they’re orange and blue. National Signing Day is like my Easter, except I’m not waiting for some dead hippy to rise; I’m just clicking refresh to see if our recruiting class has risen.
See you in a week..
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