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Confessions of a college football recruiting addict

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I’m an addict. I have been since I was 11 years old. No, I’m not addicted to booze or H. It’s nothing that cool. I’m addicted to college football recruiting.

I never had a chance at a normal life. My father was a recruitnik from way back. He passed on this sickness like other fathers passed on a tendency towards alcoholism, high-blood pressure or red hair. It wasn’t easy back then. There were only a few places to find the information we so craved. We subscribed to magazines from Student Sports, Forrest Davis and Jeff Whitaker. We’d highlight commitments, star those who were prospects and scratch through those who had already sold their souls to rivals. I hated guys long before they even attended their senior prom, and I still do long after they have graduated college.

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Tom Lemming’s weekly recruiting show and a few others gave us the highlight film. Apparently, it was mandatory for early footage to be taken no closer than two miles from the stadium and preferably on horseback. Deciphering an early highlight film was like reading the scrolling green numbers from The Matrix. “Am I looking at the LB or the RB? Why is this in night vision?” It was grainy; it was shaky, and it was perfect.

Then, the Internet happened. Porn and college recruiting benefited most from the emergence of the Internet. Each team has their own homer “insiders” to tell you that all the top talent is coming to your favorite team. Articles were written about each player after each visit to the point where you start to know these guys better than know your own family (in fairness, nobody in my family can run a 4.65 shuttle). The Internet has given us up to the minute national rankings, highlight film on every player in the nation and, most importantly, the message boards.

Related: SEC now has more than 60 decommitments in 2014

Imagine Alcoholics Anonymous, but the meetings are held at a bar in Cancun and drinking is mandatory. That is what the college football recruiting message boards are like.  Anonymous addicts from unknown places all gather in one spot to get that fix. Regardless of the school, each message board has the same characters.

  • The Insider: This is usually a paid employee of the website with ties to the coaches or athletic department. He has an idea of who the team is targeting and pretends to have an idea of how it’s all going to play out. His greatest strength is providing hope to all us desperate fools.
  • The Young Gun Insider: This guy’s job is to actually text recruits and see where they stand or how a visit went. This is the equivalent to the guy who sells crack to children on the playground. There is something creepy about the guy who texts dozens of 18 year-old boys every day, but we all acknowledge the importance of their information and turn a blind eye to their stalkerish nature.
  • The Wannabe Insider: This is 98 percent of the people on the message boards.  They have been following recruiting for years and know how the game is played. They have no sources except the multiple recruiting sites they are members of. These are the guys who make mock classes that are basically a list of all the 4- and 5-star players who haven’t even considered a visit. You’ll hear a lot of, “My gut’s telling me this guy is ours.” The most depraved of the wannabe “insiders” is the guy pays a subscription to the recruiting website of their biggest rival. This guy is sick. That is the guy who starts drinking rubbing alcohol when he runs out of cheap vodka.
  • The Virgins: These are just dipping their first toe into these mysterious murky waters.  They are the guys who get their recruiting news from the local newspaper. He’ll start threads titled, “When is signing day?” Everyone hates this guy. We hate him because of conversations like this:

Virgin: “Did you hear Georgia signed this QB from Texas?”

Dickhead Recruiting Follower: Sigh. “He didn’t sign he committed… 3 days ago. His name is Matthew Stafford. He has the potential to be the keystone for this entire…”

Virgin (interrupting): “Yeah, I heard about it on the local news this morning. Sounds like the next Eric Zeier.”

Dickhead Recruiting Follower: Sigh. “Get the hell out of my office. Don’t ever speak to me again. Eric Zeier? You’re lucky I don’t rip out your larynx.”

Recruiting addicts are elitists, and I might be the biggest recruiting elitist out there. If you didn’t see Sam McGuffie do a front flip over his high school offensive lineman, then I don’t want to know you. If you don’t know who April Justin is, then we can’t carry on a conversation. Simply hearing the names Dan Kendra, Ronald Curry, Xavier Lee, Brock Berlin and John Brantley make me laugh out loud. Joe Mauer might be a future Hall of Fame baseball player, but every time I hear his name, I loudly tell people he signed with Florida State and was the widely considered the best quarterback in the nation. “Lobster” Willie Williams was the best man at my wedding. I’ve watched Matt Stafford progress from the doughy high school quarterback with a huge arm to the doughy NFL quarterback with a huge arm. Yeah, I know Leonard Fournette is the next Adrian Peterson and, of course, I’ve seen his highlight film. I hate Lane Kiffin. I hate Coach O. I know that Tom Lemming is a Notre Dame loving asshat, and if you don’t know that then I hate you. Hell, I’ve attended multiple Under Armour All-American practices. I’m seriously messed up!

Related: Only 3 weekends left for official visits – who’s going where?

Why do I do this? Why do any of us do this? We all love something new. In college, guys would cruise over to sorority row during the first week of school hoping to be the first to lay eyes on the top prospects. How many divorces are results of somebody wanting something new? Every year those who follow recruiting are rewarded with 25 new toys…or 35 if you’re Tennessee. It’s better than Christmas.

Mainly, we follow recruiting because it’s unbelievably entertaining. It’s the same reason people watch American Idol. We love watching people make the journey from obscurity to greatness. Some careers pan out, some flop.  Even if a superstar doesn’t pick your team, for the rest of his Hall of Fame career you still get to say things like, “I’ve hated that guy for 15 years.”

I love following recruiting. I’ve had moments where I tried to take a step back and considered devoting less time to cruising the message boards and more time to school, work or my wife, but I missed it too much.  I’m not going anywhere.  I’ll be reading the optimistic mock classes, watching terrible highlight footage and losing sleep over recruiting for years to come. Again, I’m messed up!

Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports





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Comments 6

  1. William, you must be me because you just describe the way I follow and feel about recruiting. But I most just keep up with recruiting withing the SEC and recruits that could possibly end up in the SEC. I guess that means pretty much every recruit and all the top recruits. I like to think I am pretty knowledgeable about recruiting. But I don’t watch or like Tom Lemming. The best recruiting site is 247sports if you ask me. They do a great job at rating players and keeping people like me and you informed about recruits and teams.

  2. LOVE IT!!! i havent been following recruiting near as long as you, i consider myself somewhere between virgin and addict…more like addict who cant afford to be quite as crazy as i would like..lol…my husband thinks im insane and has banned me from telling him about any commits or prospects until a week or so before signing day…and ive lost facebook friends when the discussion of dylan moses came up bc talking about a middle school player whos in the class of 2018 is apparently weird…i love the excitement of recruiting and hopefully i wont tire of it anytime soon!!!

  3. Sam McGuffie!!! I definitely got in a fight with a guy over his 40 time and where he was committing…My names Drew and I am addicted to recruiting.

  4. LOL your articles are always golden

  5. This is awesome stuff, William!