Recruiting Realities Changes with the Speed of Light

It was 1994 and my son, Jay Feely was a senior at Jesuit High School, having just completed two very successful years as the football team’s placekicker.  He was fortunate to have had Coach Dominic Ciao as his Head Football Coach, because unlike the majority of coaches I knew, Coach Ciao was a relentless recruiter for his players. It was very rare that he did not place 7 or 8 guys in D1 schools from his crop of graduating seniors. The reality is that many coaches only pay lip service to the importance of the high school coach’s role in the recruiting process, but never really devote the time to successfully promote their guys on the recruiting “bubble”.

As a football coach myself I knew that when it comes to “bubble” players (those who may or may not get recruited) the parent must become an active participant in the process, especially when it pertains to Special Teams positions.

In 1993-94, technology was emerging, but the internet was still in its infancy.  What I did to assist my son’s recruitment was everything the resources I had available would allow, including making hundreds of paper copies of resumes, news articles and VHS tapes of his game highlights and sending them out to everyone I could think of.  That, and the efforts of his coach paid off and he got several D1 offers but none that really appealed to him. Jay ended up accepting a “walk on” offer from Michigan that ultimately did not turn into a scholarship offer until after Notre Dame made a very late bid offering him a scholarship. Michigan signed Jay the day fall practices were to begin.  It was a very stressful ordeal!

Fortunately, two decades later we have many more ways to help our student athletes get recognized by colleges. 

The Recruiting Labyrinth-Part 1: The Core Components

Technology, and social media, has changed the recruiting process dramatically, and those changes are soon to be overshadowed by even newer innovations. The trick is to take every advantage of these technological opportunities to gain an edge on the competition, but in so doing one needs to start with a overall plan.

I have had five sons of my own go through this process, and the methods and strategies I used were different for each one of them because I wanted to discover or create a better "mouse trap". I have also used what I have learned from those five experiments to help hundreds of others get discovered and eventually placed in a college football program.

The recruiting process, while it has some similarities with other football positions, is also quite unique from the other football positions, thus a different overall strategy is in order. I will be discussing most of the strategies that can or should be employed in a comprehensive plan for a football kicker, punter and long snapper.

First, before you set out to pursue a college scholarship, make sure you have, or  will have, the necessary skills that put you in range to compete at that level.

Often, I hear from parents and players statements that are based in myths that are not reality. Getting a scholarship, and even a walk on slot on a college team is very competitive and difficult today, especially for kickers. It is simple economics,  the supply of quality kickers coming out of the high school ranks continues to increase much faster than the demand for quality kickers by colleges. More kicking coaches are in the market training more kickers and the quality of skilled kickers has increased tenfold. To best situate yourself to be competitive I recommend these initial Core Components to a successful campaign:

1). Find a very competent kicking coach with a solid reputation and strong college connections and train with him as often as possible.

2). Become a kicker and a punter, or a long snapper who plays another position.

3). Take the most rigorous courses you can in high school and get the best grades possible.

Lets look at why these so important that I mention these three components  before any other strategies.

  1. Find a very competent kicking coach: Since I became an Associate with the National Camp Series back in 2006, I have had the honor of meeting many great kicking coaches from around the U.S.  One thing that has resonated loudly in watching the kids perform at our camps is that the ones who perform the best in our evaluations are the kids who are trained by these coaches. These, ultimately are the same kids that get scholarships in college because their skill level  is superior to those not being trained, and their kicking coaches are helping them get placed. Coaches who are affiliated with a network, such as the National Camp Series, have the advantage of helping each other find schools for each other’s

Athletes. We routinely share information about colleges we know that are looking or help each other find a home for a not yet placed athlete.

(2) Become a kicker/punter: This goes back to my economics law of supply and demand. The supply of good kickers is very high today, but the supply of good punters has not caught up yet. Most college coaches desire a combo kicker/punter guy so he can bring in or travel with fewer specialists. It is my observation that the majority of the first kids to get offered are guys who are combo kicker/punters and they are good at both.  The same principal applies to long snappers. Your stock value increases if you are capable of playing more positions than just one.  This is true for college and the pros. The guys who play several positions and are good long snappers are more likely to get scholarship offers than a long snapper is who can't play another position at that level. 

3) The third of the above Core Strategies sounds like a pitch from a guidance counselor (which I am) but it still holds true for my athletes. The better your academic profile, the more opportunities you will have to be recruited. So many colleges have restrictions on who they can recruit because they have academic standards that demand well prepared student/athletes.  The better the student athlete's transcripts are the more potential colleges they will qualify for and the more one's chances of getting a great education will be.

As good friend and colleague of mine, former NFL kicker, Michael Husted, frequently points out to his student-athletes that what they are doing is "leveraging their athletic skills to get an education". That clearly puts this into perspective as we get so hung up on the trappings of this process that we lose sight of our ultimate goal; To get that college education, in order to be able to have a better life. You are using your sports skills as a tool to help make that happen. 

The Recruiting Labyrinth: Part 2; Becoming a Light Tower

Have you ever been in a boat late at night, trying to find your way back to the dock and you can' t even see the shore? You know it is there, but it seems so distant and you get a huge knot in your chest for fear that you may run into some unknown object and become stranded, or sink. For most of us setting out to get that coveted college scholarship can be a lot like that. Now turn this analogy around and imagine that you are the Special Teams Coordinator for a college football program and you are given the task of finding and recruiting the best available kicker you can find and you know that your job may depend on how well that new kicker performs during gut check moments when the game is on the line. You, the coach/recruiter may also feel like a boat in a large dark ocean looking for signs of a savior on the shoreline you can't see. Your looking for a light tower to guide you through the trecherous waters. As a student/athlete who desires to be that light tower guiding that coach to find you instead of any of the other thousands of guys he could discover, you need to start as early as possible to build your tower and enable it to shine brightly. Besides the obvious, developing your skills to make yourself competitive at a top level among your peers, you must find ways to help them see you. You must become not only visable, but stand out brightly along side your fellow competitors. it is well documented that only about 1-2 % of high school athletes get those coveted scholarships, but that does not mean that it is too difficult to try. In fact, doing things the right way, and starting those right things early on, with a plan, will increase your odds dramatically. Some kids today are getting offers before they even reach high school. This article is not about, or for those lucky few. This is for the typical student-athlete who may be good enough to play college sports, but needs to get discovered first. Let's start atmthe beginning for that typical prospect to be. Freshman year. while most kids are just glad to be on a team, you are not most kids. You are different because you have a dream. When Magic Johnson was asked how he got to be so good at an early age he responded that most kids he knew would pick up a basketball when there was a game. He was different because as a young kid he would go to the courts so early noone else was up yet. He would imagine himself in a very big game in the future and he would play full court basketball while imagining other players all around him. He always won his game and was always the hero. He concluded you need great imagination to go along with a great dream. Step 1: Build your Light Tower Go to camps that give you quality instruction. Don't choose a college or university camp just yet, but find a great camp that will enable you to refine your skills. There are many such camps to choose from but be certain the camp you choose has a very low teacher-student ratio and that it is not a camp that is primarily taught by college kids, but by qualified experienced adult instructors. One to check out is the Kicking at the Lake Camp which offers a 6-1 student/teacher ratio. Also Check out the Top Tier All American Camp, which has more to offer than most all other camps. Most camps are for the primary purpose of getting discovered by the college putting on the camp, or colleges if it is conducted independently of a college. If this is your intent, as a freshman or rising freshman, then this is fine, but generally speaking these camps do a lot less teaching and a lot more evaluation activities. There is nothing wrong with being evaluated as a freshman so long as you are there for that reason and that the evaluation is designed to compare you with only other freshman. In fact I recommend it as this is a great way to learn to perform under real pressure. One such camp that does evaluations that are based on empiracle data is the National Camp Series camps ( They use a carefully designed mathmatical system called the Kix system which was developed by mearsuring kickers, punters, and long snappers from all over the U.S. and Canada, using the exact same standardized testing plan. Within seconds of inputting the campers results into their web site the camper is automatically ranked nationally with others from the same graduation year. This takes the human judgement factor out of the evaluation that permeates all other similar camps. Human judgement is often influenced by the judge's profit motives. The Top Tier All American Camps (see ) offers an National Camp Series Evaluation, then quality instruction in the afternoon, followed by an opportunity on the 2nd day to be further tested to see if you qualify to be placed on an All American Watch List for the upcoming season. Some Final thoughts on Dreams and Fears: True success is not an accident. True success starts with a dream. Realizing your dream is the ultimate reward. Fear is a powerful force that crushes your confidence which destroys your ability to achieve your dream. Fear changes your approach to life, promoting you to not take chances. Fear is the enemy of your dream. Know your fears and overwhelm them with reckless abandon. Make your dream your passion and your mission. Fears will no longer exist. John Lennon wrote "...all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life."